Head Smacker: Fewer than 1 in 4 Households Eligible for Housing Assistance Get It, but Congress Cuts Assistance Even More
Fewer than 1 in 4 low-income households who qualify for housing assistance receives it due to lack of funds, but that didn’t stop the House of Representatives from cutting housing assistance even more. Earlier this month, the House passed its spending bill covering the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the next fiscal year (the bill also covers the Department of Transportation). Not only would the bill fail to restore the 67,000 vouchers lost by the 2013 sequester cuts, it fails to provide enough money to renew 28,000 existing housing choice vouchers.
Resources from the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition lay out some of the other major problems with this bill: it would cut the HOME program and the public housing capital program below current levels. As we noted in a recent Human Needs Report article, it also takes all of the money slated for the National Housing Trust Fund, which would invest in additional rental housing for low-income tenants. When compared to the President’s budget, it would cut homeless assistance grants, which would deny services and housing to 15,000 families or individuals either homeless or at-risk of homelessness, and support 25,500 fewer units of permanent supportive housing. The Senate version of the bill slashes the HOME program, cutting its funding from an FY15 level of $900 million to an FY16 level of $66 million, stopping the production of 40,000 affordable housing units.
All of this means less assistance for those who need it, even though too few are being helped already. And the need is great. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s new report, Out of Reach, notes that Louisville, Kentucky, has a waiting list of more than 3,000 applicants for public housing and more than 17,000 applicants for a housing voucher. When Baltimore opened its wait list for the first time in a decade, more than 58,000 people signed up in less than a week, even though fewer than 1,500 vouchers are given out a year. Two years ago, the DC Housing Authority closed its waiting list of nearly 70,000 applicants when the average wait time for a studio apartment was 39 years and 28 years for a one-bedroom unit.
Last week, we called for a full court press to end these cuts and the too-tight sequestration spending levels that are hurting Americans all across the country. The White House has put out state-by-state numbers highlighting how many people in each state would lose things like housing vouchers and access to full-time, year-round Head Start, job training and health care coverage in each state in the House plan. These fact sheets are a great tool advocates can use to get the word out about the all-too-real impacts Congress’s cuts and continued sequestration will have in your community.
People we talk with in the Administration and Congress have strongly urged us to begin speaking out now to better secure funding for human needs programs. That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to speak out in ways that will get in the press, to heighten awareness of the real problems sequestration is causing and to send a message to Congress that there is a better path.
So write a Letter to the Editor or a press release, and use blogs and social media to speak out against proposed cuts. And if you or someone you know is interested in authoring an op-ed (great potential authors include key staff or board members of social service agencies, local business leaders, faith leaders, people who have benefited from services or who are waiting to get needed services, physicians serving low-income communities, educators, and labor or advocacy organization leaders), let us know via the comment section below or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We have materials to help with that, too.
Stay tuned to our Voices for Human Needs blog and our Human Needs Report for more information on Congress’s work on appropriations and details on their recently-released spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Subscribing to the blog is the best way to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.