HUD Considering Cash Housing Assistance Pilot

Cash housing assistance in lieu of bureaucracy-laden vouchers could make affordable housing more accessible to low-income households.

2 minute read

September 13, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Modernist concrete facade of Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters building in Washington, D.C.

Andriy Blokhin / Adobe Stock

The federal government is finally asking a question housing activists have been posing for decades: “What if, instead of traditional housing vouchers laden with convoluted red tape that landlords notoriously hate, low-income tenants could pay their rent with cash?” Writing in Vox, Rachel M. Cohen describes a potential new program taking shape at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As Cohen points out, this isn’t a new concept. “In the early 1970s, Congress successfully piloted a program to 14,000 families across 12 cities.” Now, HUD researchers want to pilot a new program to study how cash assistance might impact households’ ability to access housing.

Under current conditions, of the 25 percent of eligible households that receive federal Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers, only 60 percent are able to find housing using the voucher—in part due to source-of-income discrimination on the part of landlords.

The article outlines some of the challenges the program will have to overcome, including the logistics of distributing cash aid (which HUD isn’t allowed to do). “But if HUD isn’t allowed to distribute its vouchers as cash, foundations could step in, and then HUD could study how that goes.”

Cohen adds, “According to a HUD official involved, the federal demonstration could conceivably get off the ground in the next six to nine months, depending on how fast governments find charitable partners.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2023 in Vox

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