July 16, 2003

By Barbara Sard and Will Fischer

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New HUD Data Show Families Will Likely Lose Housing Vouchers If Congress Approves President's Budget Request

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On July 11, 2003, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) issued an analysis estimating that, if additional funds do not become available, the Administration’s fiscal year 2004 budget request for the housing voucher program would result in a shortfall of $1.26 billion dollars and fail to fund approximately 184,000 vouchers expected to be in use at the beginning of the fiscal year.  Such a reduction would fall primarily on working families and elderly and disabled people, who together make up 70 percent of the population that the voucher program serves.  On July 14, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a statement to reporters entitled “Housing and Urban Development Says Center’s Report on Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) Funding Erroneous.”  The text of the statement in its entirety reads as follows:

The Center’s report uses incomplete data to draw erroneous conclusions.

Over the past two years Housing and Urban Development has substantially increased funding for the Housing Choice Voucher Program to assist families in need.  In fact, the Department’s FY 2004 budget requests $990 million more than is currently being funded for the program that houses more than 1.9 million families.

The Department remains committed to ensuring the Housing Choice Voucher program serves low-income families across America.

The statements in HUD’s response are both misleading and essentially irrelevant to the central points and findings of the CBPP analysis.  Moreover, HUD fails to provide any facts or analysis substantively contesting the CBPP analysis.

The $990 million increase cited by HUD evidently compares the total of $13.61 billion requested by the Administration for the voucher program account in fiscal year 2004 with the $12.69 provided by Congress in fiscal year 2003.  The use of this comparison in the HUD statement is misleading in several respects.

––  The $13.61 billion requested by the Administration includes $500 million in program funding from previous years that the Administration counted upon being available in 2004 when it developed its budget request but that was rescinded in late February, after the budget was submitted, and thus is no longer available.  (Congressional action to rescind these funds was based on assumptions at that time that the funds would not be needed.)  It is possible that additional funds from previous fiscal years could become available, but the Administration has given no indication that this is likely to be the case.

––  In addition, the Administration’s budget included $560 million requested for purposes other than renewal of existing vouchers, such as capacity building grants for states and new tenant protection vouchers for families that lose housing assistance under other HUD programs.

––  When these funds are set to the side, the amount available to renew existing vouchers under the Administration’s request would be $12.55 billion, compared to $12.38 billion provided for this purpose in fiscal year 2003.  This is an increase of $170 million, or 1.4 percent.