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Housing

  • Housing represents the fundamental base-solution to the problem of homelessness. The lack of affordable housing and the limited scale of housing assistance programs contributes to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. This deficit of affordable housing has led to high rent burdens, overcrowding, and substandard housing, which has not only forced many people to become homeless but has also put a growing number of people at risk of becoming homeless.

    The U.S. did not always have such a dire lack of affordable housing. The 1970's into the 1980's saw drastic cuts to Federal affordable housing programs. Today, there is much focus on creating permanent supportive housing for people who chronically experience homelessness due to disability or health issues. But building affordable housing takes too long in most cities because of political foot-dragging, municipal agency delays, and the painstaking process of raising money from multiple sources. As a result, affordable housing is not being built at a pace fast enough to end homelessness.

  • While this is an issue that has an extensive history, since 2000 the incomes of low-income households have declined as rents continue to rise. However, the demand for assisted housing clearly exceeds the supply.

    The National Coalition for the Homeless and others urge Congress to include money for homelessness prevention and re-housing in any legislative response to the foreclosure crisis, and are also seeking to pass legislation that would help renters living in foreclosed properties to remain in their homes or transition smoothly to new housing. This is in response to:

    • According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2015 over 2 million families received a housing subsidy from the federal, state, or local government in the form of Housing Choice Vouchers.
    • A majority of local and state homeless coalitions are witnessing an increase in homelessness in the wake of the 2007 foreclosure crisis.
    • Research conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that renters make up 40% of the households facing foreclosure and rental properties constitute an estimated 20% of all foreclosures.
    • A survey of 24 cities showed that people remain homeless an average of seven months, however, 87% of cities reported that the length of time people are homeless has increased in recent years.
    • In 2013 the average renter earned an hourly wage of $16.38, however, the housing wage is $21.21, exceeding average wages by $4.83 an hour.
    • According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)'s 2016 Point-in-time Estimates of Homelessness, five states: California (22%), New York (16%), Florida (6%), Texas (4%), and Washington (4%), accounted for more than half of the homeless population in the United States in 2016.
  • The National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF), was established as a provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, it is intended to serve as a permanent federal program for increasing and preserving the supply of rental housing for extremely-low and very-low income families, as well as:

    • At least 90% of the funds must be used for the production, preservation, rehabilitation, or operation of rental housing.
    • At least 75% of the funds for rental housing must benefit extremely-low income households (incomes 30% of area median or less) and all funds must benefit very-low income households (incomes 50% of area median or less).

    The National Coalition for the Homeless, along with others, seeks to secure additional dedicated funding sources for the NHTF to finance the production, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable housing units for low and very-low income people.

  • Permanent Supportive Housing is a type of subsidized housing intended for people with disabilities who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness. It combines an affordable place to live with voluntary social services, usually on-site and provided by case management professionals. This kind of housing has been proven effective for those who have difficulty living independently and are likely to fall back into homelessness without extra support.

    Using lessons from the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence in Washington DC, the National Coalition for the Homeless has developed 10 recommendations for what can be done on the city level to speed up construction of Permanent Supportive Housing.

    Read these recommendations in our policy briefing paper: Permanent Supportive Housing in Washington, DC: Lessons from the John and Jill Kerr Conway Residence

  • Advocating for affordable housing, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and vouchers are essential in ending the homeless epidemic.

    Affordable Housing

    • The development of affordable housing creates a healthier environment for individuals, families, and their surrounding neighborhood. Communities that invest in affordable housing increase:
      • Immediate and long-term employment opportunities and spending in the local economy.
      • Immediate fiscal benefits for states and localities from the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.
      • Reduced risk of foreclosure with home-buyers who participate in affordable home-ownership programs.
      • Potential for appreciating values in nearby homes, creating a more robust tax-base for municipalities.

    Rapid Re-Housing

    • Families with the lowest barriers to housing can be rapidly re-housed with a one-time infusion of cash assistance and transitional services, while those with the highest barriers to housing are targeted for permanent supportive housing. Most homeless households have lived in independent permanent housing and can generally return to and remain housed with limited assistance.
    • By limiting the period of time people experience homelessness and helping people return to permanent housing as soon as possible, the negative fallout of homelessness itself can be minimized.
    • Families are better served by rapid re-housing programs than by costly transitional housing – The Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center argues for homeless systems to shift their resources toward rapid re-housing programs that provide different housing subsidy and service levels to families based on their needs.

    Permanent Supportive Housing

    • While the cost is offset by savings in public services that homeless people use while living on the street or in shelter, permanent supportive housing is more geared for high-need families while low-need families may only need a housing subsidy of short-term housing assistance with transitional services.

    Vouchers

    • The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program assists very low-income families and elderly and disabled individuals in obtaining affordable housing in the private market. The need for vouchers finds further justification with:
      • High housing-cost burdens are a major contributing factor to homelessness.
      • Vouchers have been found to sharply reduce homelessness and housing instability.
      • In many parts of the country, even full-time workers earning a minimum wage do not make enough money to afford decent housing without public assistance.
      • Only one in four households that are eligible for vouchers receive any form of federal housing assistance because of funding limitations.
      • A majority of the low-income families without housing assistance who face severe housing problems (excluding those who get Social Security) are working families.
      • HUD’s most recent analysis of Census data indicates that in 2005, 6.5 million low-income renter households that did not receive housing assistance had “severe housing problems,” which means they either paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities or lived in severely substandard rental housing – This number increased by 20% between 2001 and 2005.
    See more about our campaign to restore funding for housing vouchers.
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