Increasing earnings among housing assistance recipients will benefit families and potentially enable the rental assistance programs to serve more households. Our analysis shows that in 2010, most assisted households that could be expected to work were employed, even at a time of unusually high unemployment, although their earnings often remained too low to afford housing without subsidies. In fact, 88 percent of households that received rental assistance in 2010 were elderly, disabled, working (or had recently worked) or likely have access to work programs under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
Federal policy should encourage strategies to increase earnings of housing assistance recipients that are evidence-based and led by entities with appropriate expertise, along with work-oriented partnerships that involve housing providers throughout a labor market area.
Housing agencies rarely have the requisite expertise or assist sufficient families to operate workforce programs efficiently, and housing funds are already too scarce to be diverted to such efforts without the certainty that the provision of such services will result in a net increase (or, at least, in no decrease) in the number of low-income families that are able to afford housing.