The HCV program supports the lowest-income families who struggle to secure safe, affordable housing in the private market. At least 75 percent of new voucher holders must have incomes that are below 30% of their area’s median income. In 2018, the average annual household income among tenants in the program is approximately $14,700.
While targeting the most economically disadvantaged households, the HCV program also serves the most vulnerable. In 2018, 53 percent of HCV households were elderly (29 percent) or disabled (24 percent). Forty percent of HCV households included children under the age of 18. Of those non-disabled, non-elderly HCV households, 75 percent were working, worked recently, or likely were subject to work requirements.
On June 9, the House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing entitled “Universal Vouchers: Ending Homelessness and Expanding Economic Opportunity in America.” At the hearing Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke strongly in support of her recently introduced bill to create an entitlement program for housing vouchers, saying “[I]f we had this in place prior to the pandemic, so that a housing safety net kicked in automatically like it does with food stamps, we wouldn’t have had to scramble to put together the emergency relief packages we did. We don’t reinvent FEMA and disaster assistance every time there is a natural disaster."
Invited to the hearing to provide testimony on the issue of universal vouchers were Ann Oliva, senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Mary Cunningham, vice president of the Urban Institute, Ben Metcalf, managing director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, Chancela Al-Masour, executive director of the Housing Rights Center, and Howard Husock, adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Ann Oliva was one of the witnesses who advocated for this program specifically in the context of unsheltered and homeless individuals, stating, “The nation is experiencing a homelessness crisis that predates the pandemic. In 2020, thirty states saw a rise in homelessness. And for the first time since we started gathering this data, the number of individuals living on the streets, exceeded the number of individuals living in shelters.”
You can watch a recording of the hearing and see hearing materials on the House Financial Services Committee's website.
(Washington, D.C.) June 17, 2021 – The nation's leading advocacy organizations representing public housing authorities have come together to support universal housing vouchers. The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, the Moving to Work Collaborative, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, and the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association have released the joint letter below:
"Safe, secure, and stable housing is as essential to America’s social safety net as are Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Housing stability is central to improving life outcomes and economic mobility for low-income Americans. However, only one in five low-income households that are eligible to receive housing assistance can be served by existing programs due to limited funding. The pandemic has reinforced that rental assistance, such as the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, is critical to ensuring housing stability and managing sudden losses in income. Just as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are structured to be available to all who are eligible, rental assistance must be too. Expansion of the voucher program offers a proven and effective approach to scale universal housing assistance to address housing instability and prevent homelessness in America.
Housing Choice Vouchers are a proven source of permanent housing stability. They are highly effective at providing long-term financial stability to formerly homeless populations and others experiencing housing instability. A recent HUD study found that offering families a permanent housing voucher resulted in greater housing and family stability compared to short-term interventions. Furthermore, a recent study from Columbia University found that expanding housing vouchers to all eligible households could help reduce poverty by 9.3 million people as well as reduce racial disparities in poverty.
Vouchers are also frequently paired with supportive services to offer comprehensive assistance to individuals with complex mental and physical health conditions. Public housing authorities are uniquely positioned to aid low-income families in their challenges to regain employment and support children’s virtual learning because of their partnerships with nonprofit and government service providers that focus on education, health, and employment. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies recently reported on the critical role that service coordinators in publicly funded housing have played in providing food and supplies, assisting with technology, and combatting resident anxiety and loneliness.
Housing Choice Vouchers are a proven and effective rental assistance delivery system to scale universal housing assistance because they can be quickly distributed through the existing network of 2,200 state and local housing agencies that administer vouchers in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Housing authorities are trusted experts and partners in their local rental markets, have been administering the voucher program for nearly 50 years and are accountable to local and federal oversight and operate with significant public input. With the proper funding, housing authorities have the capacity for a rapid expansion.
Housing vouchers power local communities. Landlords, many of whom operate as a small business, understand that the voucher program is a guaranteed, reliable income source and provides the benefit of long-term stability. PHAs have been using the additional funding and regulatory relief provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to expedite administrative processes most often cited by landlords as reasons for preferring unassisted tenants. With this funding, PHAs have also been able to offer incentives and support to increase landlord participation in the HCV program.
We must strive to be a nation that believes that all people deserve the security that comes from having a home. Housing Choice Vouchers are the path to achieving this vision."
About the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
About CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative
In an opening legislative salvo to advance the public policy goal of guaranteeing universal housing vouchers to all eligible families, a trio of three key members of the U.S. House of Representatives have circulated a draft proposal among stakeholders that is being readied for introduction in the House.
The “Ending Homelessness Act of 2021” is sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and cosponsored by Housing, Community Development and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Financial Services Committee member Representative Richie Torres (D-NY).
The Ending Homelessness Act would create a housing voucher entitlement program to allow every eligible household to receive rental assistance. The program would be phased in over time, prioritizes the homeless, and includes other requirements and reforms – including prohibiting funding under the program for Moving to Work, a requirement to use Small Area FMRs, and a ban on source of income discrimination, among other changes.
A brief bulleted summary of the legislative proposal follows:
Section 2: Expansion of Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Appropriates amounts necessary to fund 500,000 incremental vouchers in FY22.
- Appropriates amounts necessary to fund one million incremental vouchers for each year of FY23 through FY25.
- Appropriates amounts necessary to renew all expiring tenant-based Section 8 contracts and provide administrative fees for each year of FY22 through FY25.
- Eligible households have an income that does not exceed the higher of --
- 15 percent area median income (AMI) with adjustments for larger and smaller families— except HUD can establish income ceilings higher or lower than fifteen percent because of unusually high or low family incomes ((in the AMI)- unstated); or
- 50 percent of poverty guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (except this does not apply to public housing agencies or projects located in Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories or possessions)
- Also defines eligible households as “an extremely low-income household that includes an individual who is a recipient of supplemental security income benefits under title XVI of the Social Security Act.”
- Allocated funds are prioritized to public housing agencies in jurisdictions having large numbers of families; having high rates of homelessness; and have high rates of other severe housing hardship, including overcrowding and evictions.
Section 3: Entitlement Program for Housing Choice Vouchers
- For FY26 and each fiscal year thereafter, an eligible family under Section 8 tenant-based assistance is entitled to “such rental assistance…during such period that such family meets the requirements…as a qualified family.”
- Appropriates for FY26 and each fiscal year thereafter, amounts necessary to provide assistance under Section 8 for each qualified family, and for administrative fees.
- For FY27, a qualified family has an income that does not exceed 22.5 percent of AMI, except HUD may establish income ceilings higher or lower because of unusually high or low family incomes; or the updated poverty guidelines issued by HHS (except this does not apply to public housing agencies or projects located in Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories or possessions)
- For FY28 , a qualified family is an extremely low-income family. For FY29, a qualified family is a very low-income family. For FY30 and thereafter, a qualified family is a low-income family.
- Repeals income targeting requirements.
- HUD is required to encourage public housing agencies to form geographical regional consortia to administer the rental assistance.
- Allows HUD to waive, or specify alternative requirements for, any statute or regulation under Section 8 tenant-based assistance, except for requirements related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment.
- Requires HUD and public housing agencies to utilize small area fair market rents for FY22 and each fiscal year thereafter. Rents shall be based on units located within a zip code rather than a housing market area.
- Allows housing agencies to project-base the assistance, notwithstanding Section 8(o) (tenant-based assistance); except that a qualified family may opt to use the assistance on a tenant-based basis for a different dwelling unit at any time, and the project-basing percentage limitation shall not apply.
- Qualified assisted families may use the assistance for security deposits, and broker and application fees for obtaining a unit; except HUD may limit the amount of assistance used for such purposes. HUD will require the recapture of any amounts used for a security deposit upon the termination of the residence by an assisted family.
- For FY22 and thereafter, HUD is required to establish by regulation a new administrative fee “that reflects local variation in the cost of administering a well-run housing choice voucher program and which encourages public housing agencies to expand housing choice for assisted families.”
- Appropriated funds are prohibited to be used under the Moving to Work program.
Section 5: Prohibiting Housing Discrimination Based on Source of Income or Veteran Status
- Adds source of income under the Fair Housing Act to include “current or future use of a tenant- or project-based housing voucher under Section 8…and any form of Federal, State, or local housing assistance provided to a person or family or provided to a housing owner on behalf of a person or family, including rental vouchers, rental assistance, down payment assistance, other homeownership assistance, assistance to cover housing costs, and other rental and homeownership subsidies, or guarantees or financial assistance provided through government and nongovernment organizations, including both receipt of such assistance and compliance with its terms thereof…”
- Source of income also includes supplemental security income benefits; railroad retirement benefits, or income provided through federal, state, or local governments or nongovernment organizations, or through any public or state-supported general or disability income assistance program; court ordered income, including spousal or child support; payments from a trust, guardian, conservator, co-signer, or relative; and any other source of income or funds, including savings accounts and investments.
- Includes veteran status in the list of discrimination prohibitions.
- Authorizes for each of FY22 through FY31 $90 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program; and $47 million for the Fair Housing Assistance Program; and $3 million for each of FY22 through FY24 for HUD to carry out a national media campaign to raise public awareness to help individuals understand their expanded rights and learn how to report housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
Section 6: Funding to Address Unmet Need
- Establishes a new subtitle under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act for emergency funding to address unmet needs of homeless populations in jurisdictions with the highest need.
- Appropriates $1 billion for each of FY22 through FY26 for emergency relief grants. Funds to be provided through formula grants, with a formula established in consultation with the United States Interagency Council on Homeless (USICH).
- The formula shall include data providing accurate counts of the poverty rate in the geographic area; shortages of affordable housing for low- very low-, and extremely low-income households; the number of overcrowded housing units in the geographic area; the number of unsheltered homeless individuals and the number of chronically homeless individuals; and any other factors HUD considers appropriate.
- The funding formula shall be established by regulation not later than 6 months after enactment.
- Appropriates $100 million for each of FY22 through FY26 in competitive grants for outreach funding to provide outreach and coordinate services for persons and households who are homeless or formerly homeless.
Section 7: Housing Trust Fund
- Appropriates $1 billion for each of FY22 through FY26 to the Housing Trust Fund with a priority for housing the homeless. Limits the amount of tenant rent contribution to not more than 30 percent of adjusted income.
Section 8: Technical Assistance Funds to Help States and Local Organizations Align Health and Housing Systems
- Makes available $20 million to HUD to provide technical assistance under McKinney-Vento to integrate and coordinate assistance with health care funded by federal programs in collaboration with HHS and the USICH.
- In allocating funding, HUD shall seek to “assist States and localities in integrating and aligning policies and funding between Medicaid programs, behavioral health providers, and housing providers to create supportive housing opportunities; and 2) engage State Medicaid program directors, Governors, State housing and homelessness agencies, any other relevant State offices, and any relevant local government entities, to assist States in increasing use of their Medicaid programs to finance supportive services for homeless persons.”
- Funding priority is given to states and localities having the highest numbers of chronically homeless persons; and to assist localities adopting local policies, such as zoning and regulation, leveraging the private sector’s participation providing affordable housing for low-, very low-, and extremely low-income households for a minimum of 15 years.
Section 9: Permanent Authorization of Appropriations for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Grants
- Authorizes to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year.
Section 10: Permanent Extension of United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
- Repeals the sunset of USICH.
Section 11: Eligibility of Private Nonprofit Organizations for Funding
- Eligible entity private nonprofit organizations under McKinney-Vento, including eligible entity faith-based organizations, are eligible for assistance under this Act.
Section 13: Emergency Designation
- Designates amounts in this Act as an emergency requirement under the statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act, and as an emergency requirement in the Senate.