Length of Housing Assistance With Housing Choice Vouchers Driven by Demographics and Housing Market Conditions

Increase in Federal Funding for Housing Choice Vouchers Needed to Keep up with Demand

A report by Kirk McClure published by HUD, Length of Stay in Assisted Housing, examined the length of time that households receive assistance from one of six U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs for low income households, including Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs.)

These six HUD programs assisted approximately 5.1 million households in 2015. The typical household who exited one of these programs in 2015 had received assistance for six years, up from 4.4 years in 2000. This increase is largely the result of an increase in HUD-assisted elderly households, who receive assistance for a longer period of time, and housing market conditions.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has recommended for FY 2018 funding levels of

  • $19.6 billion for voucher renewals, and
  • $21.6 billion for vouchers overall.

The recommended $21.6 billion funding level includes funding for:

  • 10,000 new Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH),
  • Family Unification Program (FUP) and
  • Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) vouchers as in the Senate bill.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 165,800 people in 70,000 New Jersey households use a voucher to afford decent, privately owned housing.

Under the House bill, New Jersey would lose 3,260 vouchers and under the Senate bill, New Jersey would lose 820 vouchers.

While the average length of stay for HUD-assisted households who exited one of the programs in 2015 was six years, half of them exited after 3.6 years or fewer. HCV recipients who exited had an average stay of 6.6, 5.9, and 5.7 years, respectively. Half of those who exited, however, had a stay of 4.8 years or less for HCVs.

The report found that income did not predict length of assistance. Households that stayed in assisted housing and those that exited had roughly similar incomes, between $13,000 and $14,000 per year.

Surprisingly, those with incomes from wages typically had longer lengths of stay than those with incomes from other sources. The author suggests that wage income may not be stable and may be at risk of loss when emergencies occur, such when as a worker without paid sick leave has to take time off for an illness.

Housing market and neighborhood conditions had an impact on length of stay. Higher cost neighborhoods and higher cost metropolitan areas were associated with longer lengths of stay. Higher vacancy rates at the neighborhood and metropolitan level were associated with shorter lengths of stay. Higher neighborhood poverty was associated with shorter stays, indicating that HUD-assisted households living in higher poverty neighborhoods are likely to exit assistance sooner in order to leave high poverty areas.

The author concluded that national economic forces and rental housing trends have likely played a large role in longer lengths of stay in housing assistance programs. Incomes have not kept pace with increases in rents.

From 2000 to 2015, the median gross rent increased by 54% while renter incomes increased by 31%. Lengths of stay in housing assistance programs will continue to increase as long as these trends continue.

Length of Stay in Assisted Housing

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