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Urban Institute calls out shortfalls in federal housing assistance

The Urban Institute recently published a new report saying federal housing assistance programs aim to ensure recipients have decent, safe and affordable housing, however it claims new policy changes have left these programs falling short of their goals. In the report, the Urban Institute suggests a need for a serious review of affordable housing policy with a focus on developing a stronger evidence base before attempting large-scale changes to federal housing assistance programs. The company created the chart below to demonstrate that as housing stability decreases, the need for other public benefits and systems increases. Click to Enlarge (Source: Joint Centers for Housing Studies of Harvard University, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Urban Institute) But the Urban Institute claims that despite the strong need, there are still “shortfalls” in federal housing assistance. “Despite this array of options, housing assistance programs do not come close to meeting the actual need. The chart below shows that currently, only about 20% of those who need federal assistance receive it. Click to Enlarge What’s more, many of those on waiting lists for voucher programs will need to wait more than a year, and more than half of those needing voucher will be put on a waiting list. Click to Enlarge “In a time when only one in five eligible renter households actually receive federal assistance, any reduction to federal funding for public housing or vouchers threatens the well-being of millions of low-income households,” the report said. “The administration’s proposed budget cuts and many of the other proposed reforms to housing assistance—minimum rents, rent increases, time limits, work requirements, and others—are not new, but the evidence on how these changes have or will affect the availability of housing assistance and the livelihoods of those eligible for it remains scattered and thin.” “And there is little discussion of the fact that most of these proposals assume that recipients are able-bodied adults capable of work; increasingly, however, most are elderly and disabled,” the report continued. “What we do know is that housing assistance plays a critical role in stabilizing low-income households and promoting positive health and educational outcomes.”