BEYOND THE NUMBERS
We’ve already noted that President Trump’s budget would eliminate more than 250,000 Housing Choice Vouchers next year. It also would force families using vouchers to pay much more in rent and sharply limit their access to housing in safe neighborhoods with quality schools and other opportunities. Let’s take a closer look:
Overall, the budget includes $19.3 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, nearly $1 billion below the 2017 level. It includes $17.6 billion to renew vouchers in use — $771 million less than policymakers recently agreed to spend for 2017 and $2.3 billion (12 percent) less than we estimate will be needed next year. As a result, more than 250,000 vouchers that families are expected to use this year would be eliminated. State and local housing agencies could eliminate these vouchers in part by not reissuing vouchers when families leave the program, but they’d still have to end assistance for a large number of households. About half of the households losing assistance would likely include seniors or people with disabilities, while most of the rest would likely be working families with children, based on the current composition of the voucher program.
Such cuts would devastate families and communities. Vouchers sharply reduce homelessness, housing instability, overcrowding, and other hardships. They also enable families to move to safer neighborhoods with better access to quality schools and other household needs. These effects, in turn, are closely linked to educational, developmental, and health benefits that can improve children’s long-term prospects, enable frail seniors and people with disabilities to live in the community and avoid institutionalization, and reduce costs in other public programs.
Moreover, these cuts would come at a time when near-record numbers of low-income families struggle to pay rent and make ends meet, and 3 in 4 eligible households receive no rental aid due to funding limitations.
The President also requests $1.55 billion for housing agencies’ administrative expenses, $100 million less than in 2017. Agencies use these funds to inspect families’ housing to ensure that it meets basic health and safety requirements, verify families’ income and eligibility, and gather information to ensure that program dollars are used lawfully and effectively. Agencies have strained to fulfill these essential functions, as funding has already declined 7 percent since 2010, adjusted for inflation.
With the stated goal of cutting costs — and thereby mitigating the loss of vouchers due to funding cuts — the budget also includes two sets of “reform” proposals:
- One set of proposals would significantly raise assisted tenants’ rents and cut voucher subsidies in various ways. This would make housing less affordable and stable for families, as well as force more families using vouchers to live in lower-rent districts that are likelier to be poor, segregated, and isolated from quality schools and other sources of opportunity. Landlords would be much less likely to risk renting to voucher holders, thereby undermining the successful public-private partnership on which the program is based. (We’ll say more about these proposals soon.)
- The second set of proposals would give agencies more flexibility in administering the program. Policymakers should always look for ways to streamline program administration, so long as they’re consistent with core program goals such as ensuring that housing is safe and sanitary and that agencies accurately determine applicants’ eligibility and subsidy amounts. Indeed, policymakers recently approved a host of reforms that will reduce unnecessary housing inspections and tenant income verifications, two of the most demanding areas of program administration. But administrative streamlining won’t negate the devastating effect of the President’s steep funding cuts on families, seniors, and people with disabilities.
|Trump 2018 Budget for Housing Vouchers
|Tenant protection vouchers||$110||$60|
|New vouchers for homeless veterans/others||$57||$7|
|Section 811 vouchers for non-elderly disabled people, renewal and administration||$120||$107|