Issue: Public Housing Assistance

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Issue Summary

The federal government funds numerous housing assistance programs that provide direct assistance to low-income individuals through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture — primarily by subsidizing rental units in the private housing market. The largest housing assistance programs are Section 8 rental assistance, direct Public Housing for beneficiaries, Hope VI public housing stock rehabilitation, and Homeless Assistance.

Section 8 housing vouchers and other project-based rental assistance accounted for 43 percent of all federal housing and development spending in FY2009. The voucher component of Section 8 by itself is one of the 10 largest low-income programs.1

The Public Housing program — which pays the operating costs of publicly-owned housing and makes the units available to low-income individuals and families — accounted for 18 percent of spending on low-income housing assistance in FY2009.2

The HOPE VI program pays for the costs of demolishing, rehabilitating and replacing distressed public housing units. Other housing programs provide loans to state and local governments or private entities to build or finance low-income public housing or to otherwise support and expand the supply of housing for low-income elderly and disabled households.3

Homeless Assistance Grants target the needs of homeless individuals and families (including those with disabilities) for basic shelter, short-term and long-term housing, and related support services.4 Additional federal programs provide funding to rehabilitate, modify, repair and demolish low-income private residences owned by individuals; provide social services and other assistance to public housing tenants; or to provide emergency shelter.5

What Would Reagan Do?

President Reagan was not a proponent of the top down approach to public housing and made efforts during his Presidency to reduce traditional subsidies and provide more flexible benefits.

Continuing President Reagan’s legacy, the Carleson Center for Welfare Reform supports the creation of a public housing block grant to provide both states and individuals more flexibility.

Issue History

Modern public housing programs can trace their roots back to the United States Housing Act of 1937.6 However, it was the creation of Section 8 tenant-based certificates in 1974 — expanding federal low-income tenant assistance to include privately-owned housing — that drove the expansion of federal housing to become the dysfunctional system that we have today.7

PROPOSED PUBLIC HOUSING ASSISTANCE BLOCK GRANT

The Welfare Reform Action Fund’s (WRAF) sister organization — the 501(c)3 Carleson Center for Welfare Reform (CCWR) — identified numerous federal housing assistance programs that combined would create a consolidated block grant to the states to provide housing assistance to targeted low-income populations.8

A total of 46 programs, costing over $35 billion in FY2011, comprise the block grant as recommended by the CCWR. This does not include the federal government’s costs to administer the programs.

An informed government policy to protect the nation’s safety net should begin by reining in the welfare state through a time-tested approach — cutting spending on those who are NOT really in need. Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan approved a blueprint to end welfare dependency not just for the benefit of federal and state taxpayers, but for the long-term benefit of welfare recipients themselves. The time was not right then. The time must be right now.

The CCWR report proposes an achievable, common-sense plan — and model legislation to enact it — to end the hopeless bureaucratic overlap and fiscal abuse plaguing our nation's welfare spending; assure that limited taxpayer funding is directed to benefit the truly needy; and permanently reduce the size and influence of the federal welfare bureaucracy. The WRAF is working to urge Congress to approve this and the CCWR report’s recommendations to block grant 6 other categories of welfare programs to the states as well.

TABLE OF LOW-INCOME HOUSING ASSISTANCE BLOCK GRANT PROGRAMS

CFDA#

Program Name

2008

2011

Change from 2008-2011

14.871

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers

$11,492,649,706

$13,814,910,567

$2,322,260,861

14.195

Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Program

$8,726,262,525

$9,349,783,000

$623,520,475

14.881

Moving to Work Demonstration Program

$3,430,861,568

$3,849,410,082

$418,548,514

14.872

Public Housing Capital Fund

$2,080,803,138

$1,638,403,510

-$442,399,628

14.239

Home Investment Partnerships Program

$1,654,000,000

$1,590,712,200

-$63,287,800

14.235

Supportive Housing Program

$827,244,000

$1,167,559,198

$340,315,198

10.427

Rural Rental Assistance Payments

$479,000,000

$953,723,730

$474,723,730

14.238

Shelter Plus Care

$517,135,000

$444,351,646

-$72,783,354

14.157

Supportive Housing for the Elderly

$778,344,000

$411,247,318

-$367,096,682

14.241

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS

$300,100,000

$330,986,700

$30,886,700

14.231

Emergency Shelter Grants Program

$160,000,000

$250,000,000

$90,000,000

14.856

Lower Income Housing Assistance Program – Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation

$182,269,074

$218,886,002

$36,616,928

14.866

Demolition and Revitalization of Severely Distressed Public Housing

$189,033,902

$153,229,750

-$35,804,152

14.889

Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grants

$0

$122,270,000

$122,270,000

14.181

Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities

$255,779,000

$114,854,768

-$140,924,232

10.447

The Rural Development (RD) Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Demonstration Program (MPR)

$126,000,000

$81,355,314

-$44,644,686

14.169

Housing Counseling Assistance Program

$47,500,000

$79,036,966

$31,536,966

14.900

Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control in Privately-Owned Housing

$70,400,000

$66,000,000

-$4,400,000

14.879

Mainstream Vouchers

$95,479,095

$64,868,108

-$30,610,987

14.191

Multifamily Housing Service Coordinators

$0

$61,000,000

$61,000,000

10.417

Very Low-Income Housing Repair Loans and Grants

$59,000,000

$53,095,203

-$5,904,797

14.905

Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant Program

$48,000,000

$48,000,000

$0

10.420

Rural Self-Help Housing Technical Assistance

$38,000,000

$31,434,181

-$6,565,819

14.247

Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program

$26,500,000

$26,676,540

$176,540

10.415

Rural Rental Housing Loans

$0

$18,036,667

$18,036,667

14.880

Family Unification Program (FUP)

$0

$14,994,311

$14,994,311

10.448

Rural Development Multi-Family Housing Rural Housing Voucher Demonstration Program

$6,300,000

$12,000,000

$5,700,000

10.433

Rural Housing Preservation Grants

$9,593,704

$9,814,482

$220,778

14.249

Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy

$20,802,000

$9,569,144

-$11,232,856

14.892

Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants

$0

$4,000,000

$4,000,000

14.914

Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing

$0

$4,000,000

$4,000,000

10.862

Household Water Well System Grant Program

$0

$1,050,000

$1,050,000

14.421

Limited English Proficiency Initiative

$0

$649,099

$649,099

10.446

Rural Community Development Initiative

$8,259,539

$0

-$8,259,539

14.008

Transformation Initiative: Choice Neighborhoods Demonstration Small Research Grant Program

$0

$0

$0

14.103

Interest Reduction Payments – Rental and Cooperative Housing for Lower Income Families

$0

$0

$0

14.149

Rent Supplements – Rental Housing for Lower Income Families

$0

$0

$0

14.264

Neighborhood Stabilization Program

$0

$0

$0

14.266

Border Community Capital Initiative

$0

$0

$0

14.267

Continuum of Care Program

$0

$0

$0

14.268

Rural Housing Stability Assistance Program

$0

$0

$0

14.313

Dollar Home Sales

$0

$0

$0

14.326

Project Rental Assistance Demonstration (PRA Demo) Program of Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons w/ Disabilities

$0

$0

$0

14.108

Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance

$0

$0

$0

14.198

Good Neighbor Next Door Sales Program

$0

$0

$0

14.327

Performance Based Contract Administrator Program

$0

$0

$0

Total

$31,629,316,251

$34,995,908,486

$3,366,592,235

  1. CRS Report R41625, Federal Benefits and Services for People with Low Income: Programs, Policy, and Spending, FY2008-FY2009, by Karen Spar (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, January 31, 2011), p. 19. http://greenbook.waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/greenbook.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/2012/documents/RL41625_gb.pdf
  2. Ibid, p. 19.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. HUD History, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/about/hud_history
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Securing the Safety Net,” a report by The Carleson Center for Welfare Reform (January, 2013). http://theccwr.org/