David Row, second from left, helps his 8-year-old son learn to ride a bicycle as a homeless man reads his book outside a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, Wednesday, September 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Cross-posted from my column on the impact of sequestration at BillMoyers.com.
In April, Doug Rice, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, warned that sequestration would lead to the loss of rental assistance for up to 140,000 low-income families.
Last week, he held out a glimmer of hope that a bipartisan Senate appropriations bill would reverse those cuts.
According to Rice, the Senate transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) bill would restore funding for 99 percent of the Section 8 rental assistance vouchers in use prior to sequestration. Such legislation would be significant to say the least considering the state of affordable housing in America even prior to sequestration.
“Before sequestration, the number of families that were paying unaffordable housing costs had been rising dramatically,” said Rice. “And we’ve seen an uptick in families with kids who are experiencing homelessness since the recession.”
Only one in four eligible households receives a voucher or some other form of federal rental assistance. The average household income is just $12,500—well below the poverty line of about $18,000 for a family of three.
Rice said that sequestration is especially hitting families “who are paying 60, 70, 80 percent of their income on housing costs.”
“These are typically families that have incomes below the poverty line—they tend to be seniors, people with disabilities and working families with kids,” said Rice. “It makes it very difficult for them to buy other things they need like food and transportation to get to work, and prescription drugs. And they are at greater risk of falling behind on their rent, getting evicted and becoming homeless.”
The House THUD bill would increase voucher funding compared to 2013, but it still would lock in voucher eliminations for 100,000 low-income families rather than restoring that funding as proposed in the Senate bill. Further, it would make deep cuts to the capital repairs program for public housing, funding it at $1.5 billion—several hundred million dollars less than the post-sequestration level. While Section 8 vouchers represent the nation’s largest rental assistance program, public housing still helps more than 1 million low-income families.