Fact of the Week: Vouchers Reduce Homelessness and Housing Instability by 80 Percent
More than 5 million low-income households receive help affording homes through federal rental assistance. That’s why a new chart book from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that shows us some of the important facts about rental assistance is so useful. The chart book includes information on who is helped, how rental assistance reduces homelessness, housing instability and poverty, and how rental assistance promotes children’s long-term health, well-being and success.
Among other highlights, the chart book notes a rigorous study’s findings that among families with children, vouchers reduced homelessness and housing instability (defined as families living doubled up with family or friends) by close to four-fifths. Homelessness (living in a homeless shelter or on the street) amongst these families was reduced by three-quarters. Researchers also found that vouchers reduced the number of times that families moved over a five-year period, on average, by close to 40 percent, which has been shown to reduce the amount of stress and educational interruptions children experience.
And there is good news on the housing assistance front. Congress recently passed a bill that will make federal housing assistance programs more efficient and effective, improving lives of low-income families. The Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act (H.R. 3700) will update and streamline rental assistance programs to help expand access to higher-opportunity neighborhoods, address homelessness, support renovation of public housing, strengthen work incentives, ease administrative burdens and trim program costs. When President Obama signs the bill, it will be the first time a major piece of authorizing legislation affecting vouchers and public housing has been enacted since 1998.
In addition to providing common-sense changes to public housing and rental assistance that will improve residents’ quality of life, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would reduce program costs by $311 million over five years. This savings means that more families could be helped with the existing level of funding.
And more families need the help. As we noted in a recent Head Smacker, the number of families with children receiving federal rent subsidies has fallen by more than 250,000 since 2004 and is at its lowest point in more than a decade, despite rising need. Only 1 in 4 renters who qualify for federal rental assistance actually receives it due to lack of funds, and homelessness among school-age children is at a record high.
Whether the savings from H.R. 3700 are actually put toward more vouchers in the future remains to be seen. But what we can see, thanks to CBPP’s chart book, is that doing so would mean a path out of homelessness for a large percentage of voucher recipient families and a brighter future for their children.