The Sequester and the Homeless

Cuts Come at Worst Time
40,000 New Vouchers Needed

The Sequester and the HomelessA March 22, 2014 New York Times editorial, “The Sequester and the Homeless”, raises the issue that the effects of the sequester continue to have a negative effect on programs that assist the homeless, including the Section 8 Voucher program.

Public Housing Authorities stopped issuing new vouchers and also retracted some previously committed vouchers that hadn’t yet been leased up.

“These cuts arrived in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, at a time when only one in four families who would qualify for federal rental assistance actually get it.”

In December 2013, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) found that 70,000 fewer low-income families were using vouchers than the previous year. Since Congress typically bases its funding of Section 8 on current voucher usage, it is critical that Congress work to replace the remaining half of these 70,000 vouchers that are still unfunded.

Compounding the problem of the cuts to voucher funding, a new government report estimates that 60,000 people lost housing and shelter beds due to sequestration.

The editorial concludes,

“All this comes at a time when record numbers of families have been caught in the squeeze between rising rents and falling wages — and are at greater risk of homelessness. In other words, this is the worst possible time for Congress to let affordable housing programs go begging.”

A recent Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) blog post makes the case for “Why and How Congress Should Restore Lost Housing Vouchers.” CBPP blogger Douglas Rice writes, “ … Next year’s funding must cover all vouchers in use in 2014 plus another 40,000 vouchers.”

Mr. Rice recommends the 40,000 additional vouchers targeted to three areas:

  • Reducing homelessness and keeping at-risk families together (30,000 vouchers).
  • Reducing unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities (5,000 vouchers).
  • Protecting victims of domestic violence seeking emergency transfers (up to 5,000 vouchers).

Click here for the full NYT editorial.

Click here for the CBPP off the charts blog post.