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Take a Number: The Long Wait for Rental Assistance

    • America is facing a rental housing crisis. Real estate markets are heating up as the economy gets stronger, but wages are not keeping pace with rising rents. As a consequence, the United States has an 8.3 million shortfall in apartments that are affordable for extremely poor renters – far worse than recent decades. Virtually no help is available for people who cannot afford housing, leaving many on the brink of homelessness.

      For more than 40 years, the Section 8 rental assistance program has been a vital resource for low-income households. However, waiting lists for Section 8 vouchers are so long that most applicants will spend years hoping to receive help.

      The National Coalition for the Homeless surveyed 27 cities to determine just how bad the waiting list problem has become. Ninety-six percent of the cities surveyed had closed their waiting lists to new applicants. Of that number 16 cities had waiting lists that were longer than 3 years. 

    • Housing throughout the United States is costly and the lack of affordable housing leads millions of Americans to a life oftake a number house
      housing instability and homelessness. Federally funded rental assistance vouchers provide a modest subsidy to approximately 2 million households each year, allowing them to afford housing in the private market when rents are otherwise too high. However, as wages remain low and the cost of market-based rent rises, the demand for rental assistance is increasing. 

      Congress isn’t providing enough rental assistance to keep up with the expanding affordability gap. What’s worse, they’ve actually cut the number of Section 8 vouchers by 40,000 in recent years. As a result, people who are legitimately eligible for the program cannot get the help they need. 

      Our survey of cities across the country found that approximately 33% of Section 8 applicants must wait more than 3 years to receive a voucher, while another 25% wait 5 years or more.

    • Housing vouchers are a proven solution to reduce homelessness. In 2008, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began a partnership to address the disproportionately high number of homeless veterans. A new initiative, called HUD-VASH created a specialized pool of rental vouchers. The program combines Section 8 rental assistance with case management and clinical services with the commitment to provide stable housing and services to break the cycle of homelessness for veterans in need.

      Since the HUD-VASH program was launched, approximately 70,000 vouchers have been awarded nationwide. The influx of federal spending to address the issue of veteran homelessness has seen strong results. The percentage of homeless veterans is down 33% since 2010 and there has been a 42% decrease in unsheltered homeless veterans.

      The success of the HUD-VASH Program is an example of how more funding for rental assistance actually reduces homelessness for people who cannot afford housing. If we want to reduce homelessness throughout the country, greater investment in Section 8 rental assistance is the best solution.
    • Congress needs to put back all of the funding that was cut to the Section 8 rental assistance program in recent years. Take a Number Hand 

      Across the board funding cuts caused by the 2013 federal sequestration led to a significant decrease in the Section 8 rental assistance program. Approximately 70,000 vouchers were cut while only 30,000 have been restored. With so many families waiting for assistance, the remaining 40,000 vouchers need to be put back. 

      The Administration’s budget request for FY 2016 would do exactly that. Beyond the restoration of these cuts, Congress needs to expand rental assistance dramatically to meet the rental  housing crisis and prevent thousands more from losing access to safe, stable, affordable housing.

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