Funding Bill and Carryover Funding Should Enable Agencies to Issue More Housing Vouchers in 2019

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

The fiscal year 2019 appropriations law that President Trump signed on February 15 provides $22.6 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), including $20.3 billion to renew vouchers that low-income families are now using — the latter a $713 million (3.6 percent) increase over 2018 in nominal terms. CBPP estimates this will be sufficient to renew all vouchers that families were using in 2018. Of the remaining HCV funding, roughly $170 million will be used for new housing vouchers to help some 19,000 low-income people with disabilities, homeless veterans, and families with children afford a decent, stable place to live.

The bill creates an innovative new mobility demonstration that will enable housing agencies to provide robust support for low-income families with children seeking to use their vouchers to move to neighborhoods with quality schools and other opportunities. This demonstration project will foster innovation in the HCV program, developing best practices for maximizing families’ housing choices in the program.

And, following eight consecutive years in which agencies received far less administrative funding than they qualified for under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) formula, the bill modestly increases the administrative funding agencies use to verify family eligibility, inspect units to ensure they meet basic health and safety standards, and perform other mission-critical functions.

Agencies should use their available funds aggressively to assist more families in 2019. Even as the need for assistance continued to far outstrip its availability, the number of families with vouchers fell by an estimated 50,000 from March 2017 to September 2018, due in part to Congress’ repeated delays in completing annual appropriations and a shortfall in renewal funding in 2017. We estimate that agencies, using their 2019 funds and unspent funds from prior years, could assist additional families in 2019 (not including the 19,000 new vouchers noted above) and reverse a substantial share of the recent losses.

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