When President Donald Trump released his first budget proposal last year, it called for the deepest cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the early 1980s. This time around, the White House budget calls for a $6.8 billion cut to HUD in fiscal year 2019, or a 14 percent reduction, which is even deeper than what Trump demanded last year and. According to experts, it would be the most radical attack on federal housing aid since the US Housing Act became law in 1937. If enacted, the Trump budget would be a vicious eviction notice to millions of low-income families.
The Trump budget provides only $18.6 billion to renew Housing Choice Vouchers in the upcoming fiscal year. That’s $900 million less than HUD itself estimates will be necessary to renew these vouchers in 2018, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities believes it’s $1.9 billion short for 2019 when you factor in rent inflation and other factors.
More than 5 million people rely on the Housing Choice voucher program to obtain housing from state and local housing agencies nationwide. Seventy-five percent of the people who use these vouchers must be “extremely low income,” with incomes at or below 30 percent of the local median or poverty line. (The rest can have incomes up to 80 percent of the local median.) A plurality of voucher recipients are adults with children; nearly a quarter are elderly Americans. Twenty-seven percent are disabled. Only 13 percent of recipients are childless, non-disabled adults.
If these cuts take effect, it would essentially halt the issuance of new housing vouchers. As it is, it’s extremely rare for housing vouchers to be issued for new purposes, according to Barbara Sard, a vice president for housing policy at CBPP and a former senior adviser at HUD under President Obama. Only one in four people who need a voucher end up receiving one.
State and local housing agencies generally operate a one-in, one-out process for vouchers. A family has to first stop using their voucher for a new family to get one. With drastic budget cuts of 9 percent in a single year, when a person stopped using a voucher, the state and local housing agencies would be forced to simply not reissue a new one in order to stay on budget. Nine percent is roughly equivalent to the national turnover rate for Housing Choice vouchers, according to Sard.
Moreover, some people would have their vouchers canceled outright—CBPP estimates this would happen to 200,000 people nationwide. These families would immediately face extreme financial hardship and, quite likely, eviction. This would mainly be concentrated in big cities where rental costs most dramatically outstrip local incomes, like New York City and Washington, DC. The turnover rate in areas like that is much lower than 9 percent—it’s closer to 3 percent—since the housing is so badly needed. “That means that gap is going to have to be met, in terms of the funding reduction, by terminating the vouchers of current families,” said Sard.