Housing Choice Vouchers are a tenant-based rental assistance program that evolved from the old Section 8 Program. Since 2001, housing vouchers are the major federal program intended to bridge the gap between the cost of housing and the incomes of low wage earners and people on limited fixed incomes.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposes two major changes to the voucher programnamely, cutting funding and transforming the program into a block grant to the statesthat could significantly affect the functioning of the program.
The proposed cut of Section 8 funding by over $1 billion this year and block granting it to state and local housing agencies, leaves the agency with three equally unappealing options:
- Cut at least 250,000 families from the program; or
- Charge higher rents to low-income families who already struggle to make ends meet; or
- Transfer vouchers from poorer families to higher income families.
The Housing Choice Voucher program provides flexibility and options by issuing vouchers to eligible households to help them pay the rent on privately owned units of their own choosing.
Approximately 2.1 million vouchers have been authorized by Congress, providing low income people with greater opportunity and housing choice. However, the number of vouchers is woefully inadequate; three-fourths of households eligible for federal housing assistance receive no assistance.
Catholic Social Teaching has long recognized housing as a basic human right. The Catholic community--through its parishes, diocesan structures, and Catholic Charities agencies--is one of the largest providers of shelter in the nation. Since the late 1960's, the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development has solicited, encouraged, and funded a variety of Church sponsored housing--particularly senior housing, transitional housing, homeless shelters, and some family units.
The Lack of safe, affordable housing is a national crisis. We support a recommitment to the national pledge of safe and affordable housing for all and effective policies that will increase the supply of quality housing and preserve, maintain, and improve existing housing. An excerpt from the 2003 statement by the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Faithful Citizenship, A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility.
What You Can Do
Contact your Representative and Senators and urge them to support full funding of the Housing Choice Voucher program. Tell them that the proposed funding level for and changes to the voucher program are unacceptable. Members of Congress need to hear from people in local communities about the need to provide low income families with access to affordable housing.
For more information:
Thom Shellabarger, USCCB, 202 541 3189 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas Rice, Catholic Charities USA 703 549 1390 X195 or drice@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org