Judging from the Charlotte applicants, roughly two-thirds of those seeking help are working families and one in seven are homeless. The Charlotte applicants also included more than 600 veterans.
Submitting an application doesn’t guarantee someone a place on the waiting list, let alone a voucher. Each housing agency will hold a lottery to choose which new applicants will make it to the waiting list; those lucky people may still have to wait many years for an actual voucher. While the lottery approach has drawn some criticism, the problem isn’t the lotteries — it’s the scarcity of vouchers.
Most housing agencies didn’t provide vouchers to any new families for the year after the sequestration budget cuts hit in March 2013; indeed, by March 2014, sequestration had caused the loss of some 90,000 vouchers nationwide. With the increased funding Congress provided for 2014, tens of thousands of new families will get help. But the House and Senate funding bills that Congress has considered for 2015 (but not yet enacted) would not allow further progress to restore sequestration cuts.
The outpouring of need is only the latest sign that the post-sequestration level of voucher assistance should not be acceptable. At a minimum, policymakers should restore all of the vouchers cut by sequestration to give more families a better chance of having a safe, stable home.