Strengthening the Safety Net With Universal Housing Assistance

The Urban Institute simulated a model to predict the cost of a universal housing assistance program to support those who face homelessness.

April 15, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Apartment renter

Benoit Daoust / Shutterstock

Many low-income renters will struggle to pay rent next month as a result of economic stagnation. While many cities and states have implemented an eviction pause, Mary Cunningham says it's not enough, calling for a universal housing assistance program to fortify the housing safety net.   

"With fewer people able to save for emergencies and many already struggling to make their monthly payments, renters are more vulnerable to housing insecurity than homeowners. Low-income renters—many of whom work in service industries hit hard by the pandemic shutdown—are at high risk for eviction and homelessness during shelter-in-place measures enacted to contain the pandemic," writes Cunningham.

What would be the cost of scaling the Housing Choice Voucher Program to meet the needs of the approximately 8.2 million households not currently receiving program assistance? On average the household subsidy would amount to $7,530 per year or $628 per month. Urban Institute predicted a final figure of around $100 billion, only a fraction of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package that fails to substantively address the issue.

Cunningham calls for swift action on a universal housing assistance program to avoid housing loss after the lifting of the eviction moratorium.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in Urban Institute

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