A couple of weeks ago I posted about the lack of affordable rental housing for families with low-income. In essence, there is no state in the country where fair market rent is affordable for a single worker at minimum wage. A partial solution to this crisis is provided by federal housing assistance, through vouchers or public housing. However there are often waiting lists for these programs, as the demand outpaces the availability of funds.
Now, a recently released paper, authored by Douglas Rice of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), lays out what sequestration cuts will mean for families who are either currently receiving housing assistance or on the waitlist. The extremely short version is that state and federal agencies will probably have to cut assistance to about 140,000 families by early 2014 – and that just represents funding cuts for Housing Choice Vouchers, sometimes referred to as Section 8 Vouchers. The chart below gives a more detailed look at the cuts to vouchers, public housing, homeless assistance and other housing programs.
In Oklahoma, some of the pressure is already being felt by the agencies that receive and distribute federal housing assistance. The Muskogee Phoenix reported in March that the Muskogee Housing Authority is expecting a $153,000 decrease in funds for Section 8 vouchers and an additional $167,000 decrease in funds for public housing programs. While the housing authority has stopped issuing new vouchers to families on the waiting list and is trying to cut spending in other areas, they will be unable to maintain the current number of subsidies going forward. If the number of families receiving assistance fails to decline naturally, due to tenants moving or no longer requiring assistance, the authority will soon be forced to look at cutting subsidies to families currently in the program. The cuts to Housing Choice Vouchers in Muskogee represents approximately 45 families out of the projected 1,174 Oklahoma families another recent CBPP report estimates will lose their vouchers due to the sequester.
According to the CBPP report, nationwide only 1 in 4 families eligible for housing assistance are currently receiving a voucher or some other form of relief. The Muskogee Phoenix reports that 468 families are currently on the Muskogee Housing Authority’s waitlist for the Housing Choice Voucher program and 511 families are on the waitlist for public housing. Those numbers are for Muskogee alone. So as housing authorities stop issuing new vouchers, it begs the question: Just how many Oklahomans are being left on the waiting list?
Clearly when it comes to housing assistance, the need is great, the funding limited and the future is uncertain at best. What is more troubling is that the cuts to housing programs represent just one consequence of sequestration. While some may try to paint sequestration as a minor cut to overall government spending, the reductions will, in truth, have major impacts on the lives of thousands of low-income Americans.
For more in-depth analysis of this CBPP paper, our readers can check out a recent post by Slate’s Matthew Yglesias or read an excerpt from Greg Kaufman’s column in The Nation recently posted by Bill Moyer’s site, Moyers & Company.