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More Than 50,000 Low-Income Families Could Lose Housing Vouchers Under House Bill

The Housing Choice Voucher program would serve roughly 58,000 fewer families next year under a 2013 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the House began debating today — even though the number of families needing assistance is growing sharply and only 1 in 4 eligible families receive federal rental assistance due to funding limitations.

The bill would provide at least $460 million less for the voucher program than it needs to renew vouchers for the 2.1 million low-income families now using them.  Our estimate of 58,000 lost vouchers is based on data from HUD and other sources.

In addition, the House Appropriations Committee, which approved the bill, urged enactment of a

now before Congress that would streamline program funding and reduce costs.  These reforms would prevent “a significant cut to the number of leased vouchers, or deep cuts to other HUD programs,” the committee writes.  The Obama Administration has also implored the House to act on these reforms.

We agree that it has become increasingly urgent for Congress to enact reforms to enable housing agencies to stretch their limited voucher funds to help more low-income families.  But two important points are worth noting.

First, the voucher reform bill before Congress also contains several harmful provisions, including an Administration proposal to raise rents sharply on 500,000 of the poorest HUD-assisted households.  Wisely, the Senate Appropriations Committee rejected these harmful provisions in its HUD funding bill.  (The Senate bill also authorized other changes that would reduce program costs — and provided $257 million more to renew housing vouchers than the House bill did.)

Second, while reforms are essential to reduce voucher program costs over the long term, they won’t make much of a difference in 2013, as we have explained.  Thus, they are no substitute for providing the funding needed to prevent vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and families with kids from losing the assistance they rely on to avoid homelessness.