FY 2015 Appropriations: Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program

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Federal Policy Brief | September 24, 2013

Files: FY 2015 Appropriations: Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (PDF | 222 KB | 1 page)

Program Overview
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the core program intended to assist extremely low income people with the cost of housing. Participants pay 30 percent of their incomes toward rent, with the program paying the remainder up to a set maximum. Approximately 2.1 million households receive rental assistance through this program, and 75 percent of all new and turnover vouchers are targeted to people with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income (AMI), which includes nearly all people who are homeless. Approximately 82 percent of voucher households are attached to the workforce or are elderly or disabled, largely reflecting the targeting of 75 percent of new and turnover vouchers.

There is clear evidence that housing subsidies prevent and end homelessness for even the most vulnerable families. Families who exit shelter with a housing subsidy are 21 times more likely to remain stably housed than comparable families exiting shelter without a subsidy. An evaluation of one variant of the Housing Choice Voucher program, the Family Unification Program (FUP), found that 88 percent of child welfare-involved, homeless families – including those with a history of mental illness, substance use problems, health problems, and incarceration – remained stably housed 12 months after receiving a FUP voucher.  Despite this evidence, the lack of funding for this program means that only about one in four households that are eligible for vouchers receive any form of federal housing assistance. To exacerbate this, at least 40,000 housing vouchers that were cut due to sequestration have not yet been replaced.

The HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program combines a Housing Choice Voucher from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Evaluation of this program has found that recipients increase days housed, employment, income, and connections with family and friends, while decreasing alcohol use and days spent homeless or in institutions.

HUD’s latest data shows that 58,063 veterans are homeless at a given point in time, including many chronically homeless veterans who live on the streets and have a severe physical or mental disability. These veterans typically require permanent supportive housing – housing linked with intensive supports such as those provided by the HUD-VASH program – to help them maintain housing stability. A number of studies have demonstrated that this is a cost-effective approach that helps people who have intensive needs to maintain stable housing, and some evidence shows that, once back in housing, they are more likely to access health and substance abuse treatment services.

Current Status
In June, the full House voted on legislation that included $19.357 billion for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program's Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) account in fiscal year (FY) 2015. The full Senate Appropriations Committee included $19.562 billion in its legislation for the account.  The House TBRA funding level represents a $180 million increase over the final FY 2014 level ($19.177 billion) but is $688 million below the President's Budget Proposal. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s TBRA funding level represents a $385 million increase from the final FY 2014 level but is $483 million below the President's Budget Proposal. Both bills included $75 million for approximately 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers for homeless veterans. The Administration recommends funding the program at $20.045 billion in FY 2015, including $75 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers.

Recommendation
Congress should work to address the shortage of affordable rental housing for low-income households by providing sufficient funding to renew all existing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2015, and provide $320 million to replace those lost by sequestration. In addition, Congress should provide a $75 million set-aside for about 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers.