Despite increasing demand for housing assistance, chronic underfunding and deep prorations have led to a loss of HCV vouchers for needy families.
In 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to raise the national debt “ceiling” in exchange for mandatory budget cuts over a ten-year period. Without this quid-pro-quo budget exchange, the BCA imposes spending limits, also called “budget caps,” through sequestration. Since the BCA’s passage, Congress has been unable to produce bills that lower spending levels, and as a result, the BCA has placed budget caps on most non-discretionary and discretionary programs, including housing assistance programs.
Sequestration has prevented housing assistance programs from being funded at 100 percent of programmatic needs. Between 2011 and 2016, essential funding used to pay for front-line staff and the renewal of existing housing assistance contracts has been reduced by up to 25 percent. Only one in four households that qualify for housing assistance through the HCV program actually receive a voucher. Budget caps have severely constrained housing authorities’ abilities to predict costs and address growing demand for deeply affordable housing.
Federal rental assistance through the HCV program is a critical mechanism to maintain and create affordable housing at a time when the private market alone is failing to provide an adequate supply, especially for extremely low-income households. CLPHA supports the expansion of the voucher program to fully fund and renew HCV program housing assistance contracts, as well as expand the program to serve more low-income households.
In high cost markets, Project-Based Vouchers (PBVs) can be an invaluable tool to create long-term affordability. Under a project-based subsidy model, PHAs can acquire and/or redevelop housing units in cost-prohibitive, amenity-rich areas and ensure their long-term affordability to very-low and extremely-low income households. While households receiving a tenant-based voucher are not expressly prohibited from renting in high opportunity neighborhoods, they are often challenged to find an affordable unit given their fixed subsidy and private property owners’ unwillingness to accept vouchers.
CLPHA supported the 2016 Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act (HOTMA), which allows PHAs to project-base up to 20% of their vouchers. The expansion of project-based voucher utilization is particularly promising for PHAs in high-rent, low-vacancy markets, which can leverage project-based vouchers to secure affordable housing developments and stabilize competitive rental markets.
CLPHA’s members represent some of the highest-performing, highest-capacity agencies in the country. Our members have focused on innovation and placed-based strategies to address the needs of their tenants and communities CLPHA supports programs that promote innovation like the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program, which was designed to allow housing authorities to operate with greater levels of administrative flexibility and local decision-making.
MTW allows public housing authorities funding flexibilities to provide additional services and improve housing quality. Any funds that the housing authority saves through smart spending can then be reinvested for needs that meet its mission, instead of being recaptured by HUD. This strategy is common in the private sector as it incentivizes innovation, allows for long-range financial planning, and saves dollars in the long term.
Housing Choice Vouchers can target especially vulnerable low-income households that may also benefit from wrap-around services. Special purpose vouchers encourage cross-sector partnerships with health, education, and human services agencies to maximize the impact of stable housing on a household’s path toward self-sufficiency.
Examples of special purpose vouchers include:
Section 811/Mainstream Vouchers, which provide assistance to disabled households that wish to transition from a nursing home or medical facility to rent a subsidized housing unit;
Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Vouchers, which assist homeless veterans;
Family Unification Program (FUP) Vouchers, which encourage PHAs and state child welfare agencies to identify families for whom housing instability is a barrier to family reunification, and homeless youth who have exited the foster care system; and
Tenant Protection Vouchers (TPV), which protect assisted households when the funding model of their unit changes from public housing to the HCV platform.
CLPHA supports opportunities for PHAs to assist high-needs households in a collaborative manner that considers the unique conditions of their tenant populations.