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Looming Cuts Threaten Housing Programs

Testifying yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the automatic budget cuts (“sequestration”) scheduled to begin March 1, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan stated that the “cuts would be deeply destructive, would damage the economy, and would harm numerous families, individuals, and communities across the nation that rely on HUD programs.”

Our own analysis confirms that the cuts would have serious consequences on critical housing supports in every state.

  • Nationwide, more than 100,000 families could lose the Housing Choice Voucher assistance they need to rent decent housing at an affordable cost, placing many at risk of homelessness.  About half of these households are elderly or have disabilities, and most of the rest include children, according to program data.
  • Local communities would lose nearly $100 million in homeless assistance grants.  As a result, HUD estimates that 100,000 fewer people who have lost their homes will receive temporary or permanent housing assistance through its homeless assistance grants program, lengthening the time they will remain homeless.
  • Public housing, which provides affordable housing for 1.1 million households, most of which include seniors and people with disabilities with extremely low incomes, would lose $300 million.  This would force agencies to delay maintenance and repairs, causing living conditions in public housing to deteriorate and accelerating the loss of developments.   A lack of resources needed to maintain public housing already leads to a loss of about 10,000 units every year.

These cuts would come at time when the need for rental assistance is far outpacing available resources (see chart).


As the Center has explained, policymakers could stabilize the public debt as a share of the economy over the coming decade by enacting $1.5 trillion more in deficit reduction.  But the deficit-reduction strategy must include a balance of revenue increases and spending cuts.  Any approach that relies solely on cuts — including proposals by some to simply redistribute the sequestration cuts by giving Congress or the Obama Administration the flexibility to decide where the cuts will fall — would devastate housing assistance over time.