Housing Vouchers Prove an Effective Tool Against Homelessness

The Biden administration plans to expand the federal housing voucher program, which currently provides rental assistance to 2.3 million U.S. households.

April 27, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Portland Condo High-Rise

photomatz / Shutterstock

Results from a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) study that began in 2008 show that "[p]riority access to a long-term housing subsidy led to by far the best outcomes for reducing family homelessness 3 years after random assignment," reports Jared Brey in NextCity. "It’s one of numerous studies that show the housing choice voucher program is an important lifeline for thousands of low-income families who might otherwise be unable to find an apartment. Despite that, the federal government currently only funds enough vouchers for about a quarter of families that qualify for the benefit. In many cities, the waiting list for a voucher is years long — or closed entirely."

The Biden administration is seeking to expand the federal housing voucher program by adding $5.4 billion to its budget "and creating vouchers for an additional 200,000 families, beyond the 2.3 million existing voucher holders." Housing advocates praise the move, citing "significant evidence" that the program works more effectively than other interventions. 

The proposal still "falls short of Biden’s campaign promise calling for the voucher program to be funded so that every qualifying family can receive one," and voucher recipients face their own set of challenges. Some landlords discriminate against voucher holders, limiting their options and reducing their mobility and access to jobs and amenities. But advocates see the proposal as a hopeful sign for making rental assistance a much more substantial part of federal housing policy, while HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said that the request "turns the page on years of inadequate and harmful spending requests" that crippled the department's ability to meet the country's housing needs. Douglas Rice, a senior fellow on the housing policy team at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, agrees. "I think it’s an important signal of what their priorities are going to be in terms of low-income housing policy."

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 in Next City

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