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Every State Will Likely Lose Housing Vouchers, Unless Congress Boosts Funding

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We've updated our year-end report urging policymakers to provide a large funding boost to renew housing vouchers in 2017 so that we could show the potential impact that funding shortfalls could have in every state (see the table below). Without the funding, the number of low-income families receiving help to pay the rent will fall sharply this year.

Under a continuing resolution that freezes voucher funding for all of 2017 at last year's level, for example, vouchers for more than 100,000 families would be unfunded, a loss of assistance that would be greater than what the 2013 sequestration cuts caused. Larger states like Florida, California, New Jersey, and North Carolina would lose the most vouchers, but smaller states like Maine and West Virginia would also lose rental assistance for hundreds of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children.

Such cuts in housing vouchers would undermine communities' efforts to address housing insecurity and homelessness, and do so at a time when the number of low-income households struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet has been rising dramatically.

A growing gap between rents and tenant incomes has increased the cost of renewing housing vouchers in 2017. Due to this gap, along with policymakers' recent actions to restore vouchers lost under sequestration and reduce homelessness among veterans, the cost of renewing all housing vouchers in 2017 has risen to an estimated $18.86 billion.

That's higher than what the House and Senate appropriations committees approved last year in their respective 2017 funding bills for housing programs. The Senate bill would leave housing vouchers for at least 25,000 low-income households unfunded in 2017, and the House bill would leave an even deeper shortfall.

As our updated report explains, state and local housing agencies likely have already begun to cut the number of families they help. After President Obama and Congress enacted a continuing resolution in December to temporarily freeze funding for most federal programs through April 28, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) notified agencies that, beginning in January, they would receive 5 percent less funding than they need to support all of the housing vouchers that families are now using.

HUD could quickly reverse such cuts if policymakers include adequate renewal funding in the final funding bill that Congress aims to approve by the end of April, but the cuts will deepen rapidly -- with serious consequences for every state in the union -- if policymakers don't do so.

*Presumes that continuing resolution funds housing vouchers at 2016 funding level.

Note: These estimates assume that $280 million of renewal funding eligibility will be met with resources from agencies' funding reserves. Totals include estimates for Guam, the Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Source: CBPP analysis of Department of Housing and Urban Development Voucher Management System data.

This post originally appeared on Off the Charts, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' blog

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