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HUD 2021 Funding Bill Should Include Affordable Housing, Anti-Homelessness Investments

When the President and Congress write a final fiscal year 2021 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), they should adopt many provisions of a version that the House Appropriations Committee has passed — which would provide substantial new funds for programs that reduce homelessness and help low-income families, seniors, and others afford decent homes to rent.

Overall, the House bill includes $4.8 billion (or 8.4 percent) more for HUD programs than in 2020 (before adjusting for inflation), despite tight budget caps on non-defense discretionary spending in 2021.

The funding increase includes the following substantial investments:

  • $2.2 billion more than in 2020 for Housing Choice Vouchers and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, the nation’s two largest rental assistance programs, to cover the cost of rising rents and to renew assistance for 3.4 million low-income households, most of which include seniors, people with disabilities, or children. (Many of these families have lost income due to the COVID-19 crisis and resulting deep economic downturn and are paying less toward rent, which increases subsidy amounts and overall program costs. This bill assumes that policymakers will provide additional funding in a separate emergency relief package to cover these pandemic-related costs.)
  • $250 million for some 24,000 new vouchers for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. At least $40 million would go to survivors of domestic or gender-based violence, and another $40 million to veterans and their families, including those who are ineligible for the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. The bill includes an additional $20 million to help veterans through HUD-VASH and $25 million to help about 2,400 families and youth that child welfare agencies have identified as at risk of homelessness.
  • $638 million more than in 2020 for homelessness assistance grants. The bill also includes $162 million to serve youth experiencing homelessness, $250 million for a demonstration project to address unsheltered homelessness, and $75 million for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence (separate from the voucher funding above).
  • $310 million more than in 2020 to repair and upgrade public housing, which provides affordable homes to nearly a million low-income households, most of which include seniors and people with disabilities. Addressing public housing’s capital repair backlog, which is likely considerably costlier than the $26 billion that HUD last estimated in 2010, is essential to improving residents’ living conditions and preserving this vital source of affordable housing. The bill also includes a $75 million increase for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which would also help address this backlog.
  • $105 million for Family Self-Sufficiency program coordinators, which is $25 million more than in 2020. That would help extend the program’s asset building and other supports to more families in HUD’s rental programs (including Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance).

In addition to its housing investments, the bill would obstruct several Trump Administration proposals that could increase homelessness or restrict people’s access to services. It would block a proposed rule that would prohibit families of mixed immigration status from living in subsidized housing, effectively evicting 25,000 families that include 55,000 children. It would also prevent attacks against the Equal Access Rule, which protects transgender and nonbinary individuals’ access to emergency shelter and homelessness services, and the Housing First model, an evidence-based homelessness intervention.

The House is expected to pass the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the 2021 HUD funding bill (along with other agency funding bills) this week; the Senate’s timing for action is uncertain, as it has yet to write its version of the HUD funding bill. Either way, the President and Congress likely won’t finalize agency budgets for 2021 until after November’s election.

Meanwhile, policymakers should enact the bill’s separate emergency funding title that would make major housing infrastructure investments, promoting economic recovery and meeting other pandemic needs.