Revised August 7, 1998

Mandatory Delay in Reissuance of Vouchers
Results in up to 40,000 Fewer Families
Receiving Housing Assistance Each Year


For the past three years, the appropriations bills that contain the HUD programs have included a measure that reduces the number of low-income families provided housing assistance. This year, the Senate appropriations bill would eliminate the three-month delay, while the House bill would retain it.

In the absence of new funding for incremental assistance, housing assistance only becomes available to new families as others leave the program; as former recipients leave the program, rental subsidies are made available to new families. Under the provisions of the annual appropriation legislation, however, housing authorities are required to delay the reissuance of these turnover housing vouchers and certificates for a period of three months. The three-month delay means that about one-fourth of all turnover vouchers and certificates are pulled out of circulation each month. As a result, up to 40,000 fewer low-income families are provided housing assistance each year.

Although sometimes pictured as merely an administrative matter, continuation of the delay would extend a cutback in the number of families provided tenant-based assistance at the same time that low-income housing needs in the United States have reached an all-time high.

The current three-month delay in reissuing certificates and vouchers means in effect that for one-fourth of the year, turnover subsidies are not used by any family. This is equivalent to reducing by about one-fourth — approximately 40,000 — the number of families receiving housing subsidies at any given point in time. Such a reduction in the number of certificates and vouchers is not limited to specific areas, but affects housing authorities and needy families across the nation.

Impact of the Three-Month Delay on Three Public Housing Authorities

In Los Angeles, the three-month delay policy has resulted in the loss of 700 certificates and vouchers at any given point in time. As a result, the Los Angeles housing authority has had to scale back significantly its assistance for homeless families. The housing authority estimates that the number of homeless persons provided housing vouchers fell from 1,000 to 600, largely due to the implementation of the three-month delay. In addition, the housing authority estimates a loss of about $500,000 a year due to the reduced administrative fees resulting from the delay.

About 300 fewer families are provided vouchers and certificates at any given time by the New Jersey housing authority. Even before the delay was implemented, the average wait for families receiving assistance was close to three years in New Jersey. The New Jersey housing authority estimates that the delay also costs it about $250,000 a year due to the loss of administrative fees.

The Portland, Oregon housing authority estimates that approximately 180 fewer families are provided vouchers and certificates each month, due to the three month delay. This further limits its ability to serve the 3,200 families on its waiting list. The housing authority estimates a loss over of more than $70,000 a year in administration fees.

The three-month delay also places undue burdens on public housing authorities. Under the Section 8 program, housing authorities receive administrative fees from the federal government for families that rent housing with a tenant-based voucher or certificate. As housing authorities are prohibited from promptly re-issuing available housing vouchers and certificates, they lose thousands of dollars in administrative fees. This may force housing authorities to scale back their services, such as housing search assistance to families looking for housing and services to help families improve their chances of gaining employment and self-sufficiency.

Until 1995, the supply of tenant-based Section 8 subsidies had been increased every year since the program's inception. In 1995, there was no expansion of the certificate and voucher programs as a result of budget constraints. The annual HUD appropriations acts from fiscal years 1996 through 1998 mandated a three-month delay in the re-issuance of turnover vouchers and certificates. This provision of these appropriations acts effectively reduces assistance at a time when the shortage of affordable housing is at an all-time high and the need for low-cost housing on the private market that is accessible to job opportunities has increased. A continuation of the three-month delay is inadvisable.

End Notes

1. Based on HUD data, there are approximately 1.5 million households receiving tenant-based Section 8 rental assistance. HUD estimates that 11 percent of the tenant-based certificates and vouchers turn over each year. CBO estimates that 10 percent of tenant-based certificates and vouchers turn over each year.

2. Office of Policy Development and Research. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A Picture of Subsidized Housing. Volume 11:16.

3. Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rental Housing Assistance — The Crisis Continues: The 1997 Report to Congress on Worst Case Housing Needs, April 1998.

Additional housing reports.