The most recent issue of Housing Spotlight from the National Low Income Housing Coalition is titled The Long Wait for a Home. The Executive Summary reads,
The Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) programs provide essential affordable housing to some of the nation’s most financially vulnerable households. Forty percent of new public housing admissions and 75% of new voucher holders each year are required to be extremely low income (ELI) households, who earn no more than 30% of their area’s median income (AMI) or the federal poverty guideline, whichever is higher. Seventy-one percent of the nearly 1.1 million public housing households and 74% of the 2.2 million HCV recipient households are ELI (HUD, 2015).
The housing resources available to ELI renters however are insufficient. The private and subsidized rental markets make available only 3.2 million affordable homes for the nation’s 10.4 million ELI renter households, resulting in a national shortage of 7.2 million rental homes (NLIHC, 2016). ELI households face a long wait for housing assistance. Unable to find affordable housing, 75% of ELI renter households are severely cost burdened, spending more than 50% of their income on housing costs and leaving little money for other necessities (NLIHC, 2016).
The last nationwide survey of Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) regarding their public housing and voucher waiting lists was conducted in 2012. Since then, rental affordability has worsened, squeezing ELI renters even further out of the private market. To document the current state of waiting lists, NLIHC surveyed PHAs in the Fall of 2015 and Winter of 2016. Three hundred twenty PHAs responded with complete surveys, representing a diversity of size, location, and metropolitan status.
Survey data paint a bleak picture of waiting lists closed to new applicants and long waits for housing assistance. Key findings include:
- Fifty-three percent of HCV waiting lists were closed to new applicants for housing assistance. Sixty-five percent of HCV waiting lists closed to the general public had been closed for at least one year.
- Eleven percent of public housing waiting lists were closed to new applicants. Thirty-seven percent of public housing waiting lists closed to the general public had been closed for at least one year.
- The median HCV waiting list had a wait time of 1.5 years. Twenty-five percent of HCV waiting lists had a wait time of 3 years or longer.
- The median public housing waiting list had a wait time of 9 months. Twenty-five percent of public housing waiting lists had a wait time of 1.5 years or longer.
- ELI households accounted for nearly 74% of households on the average HCV waiting list and more than 67% of households on the typical public housing waiting list.
- Families with children accounted for 60% of households on the average HCV waiting list and 46% of households on the typical public housing waiting list.
- Seniors comprised the most common type of household on 15% of the public housing waiting lists for which these data were provided.
Closed waiting lists and long waits for housing assistance make clear that we must expand housing resources for our nation’s lowest income renters. Legislation introduced in the 114th Congress would increase investments in vouchers, public housing, and other housing programs.
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These policy changes, and others like them, could end housing poverty and homelessness once and for all by providing the resources necessary for every low income family to afford a home.
This report rightly brings attention to the big problems facing extremely low income households and federal affordable housing programs. Whether anything is done for them depends completely on the outcome of the election.