The Alliance is working with friends in the legislative and executive branches to continue addressing the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic but also to bring about momentous changes that would provide every eligible household with rental assistance and make supportive housing services available to people experiencing homelessness who need them the most. These efforts are focused on 1. the FY22 Appropriations process and 2. legislation to significantly increase investment in the nation’s infrastructure, including housing.
FY22 Appropriations: Increasing Resources to Reduce and Prevent Homelessness
The Alliance supports the Biden Administration’s proposal to increase funding for homelessness programs by $500 million.
Homelessness increased by 2.25% in the United States between 2019 and 2020. Chronic homelessness—experienced by people who have lived outside for extended periods and who suffer from a mental illness, substance abuse, or physical disability—increased by 14% nationally, over the same period. Unsheltered homelessness rose by 7% across the nation. And all of this occurred before the pandemic.
That’s why the Biden Administration has already asked for a $500 million increase in Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG) in its FY22 budget request:
“Makes Significant Investments to End Homelessness. To prevent and reduce homelessness, the 2022 discretionary request provides $3.5 billion, an increase of $500 million over the 2021 enacted level, for Homeless Assistance Grants to support more than 100,000 additional households, including survivors of domestic violence and homeless youth. These resources would complement the $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers provided in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which will also assist those who are homeless and at-risk of homelessness.”
The Alliance strongly supports the Administration’s recommendation for a significant increase in homelessness funding. The HAG’s Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants programs are successfully used by state and local governments, as well as an extensive network of providers of shelter and housing services in hundreds of American communities, to reduce homelessness. However, a longstanding, nationwide shortage of affordable housing leaves millions of Americans at risk of homelessness and causes too many families and individuals to fall into homelessness, easily overwhelming the resources available to prevent and reduce homelessness.
FY22 Appropriations: Extending Rental Assistance to More Low-Income Households
The Alliance strongly supports the Biden Administration’s proposal to increase voucher households by 200,000.
The Housing Choice Voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
Recent studies have demonstrated that rental assistance is critical to reducing homelessness, improving outcomes for children and families, and lifting people out of poverty. Vouchers work, but three out of four low-income renters at-risk of homelessness do not receive assistance because of limited funds.
That’s why the Biden Administration has already proposed extending vouchers to 200,000 additional households in its FY22 budget request:
“At a time when millions of families are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, the discretionary request proposes to provide $30.4 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, expanding vital housing assistance to 200,000 more families, with a focus on those who are homeless or fleeing domestic violence.”
The Alliance strongly supports the Administration’s recommendation for increasing spending on vouchers in FY22, as a down-payment on the ultimate goal of ensuring adequate rental assistance for every eligible household.
The Alliance urges lawmakers and the President to include these four important items in additional stimulus legislation later this year:
Infrastructure Investment #1: Extending Rental Assistance to Every Eligible Household
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program needs to be expanded to meet the extensive need for help paying rent. The program provides rental vouchers to people with low incomes. The program has repeatedly demonstrated strong results and is popular with low-income families. It relies on the private market to provide most of the housing, although it can also be used to pay rent in homes that are owned by nonprofits or local government.
Unfortunately, the program has never been funded sufficiently for more than about one-fourth of the eligible people to receive help. The Alliance recommends that Congress follow President Biden’s campaign platform and make vouchers a mandatory spending program, funded to provide a voucher to each eligible person. This policy will need to be phased in over several years, and in the meantime the program should be expanded year by year with a focus on people with disabilities who have been homeless for a long period; people who were homeless and entered non-congregate shelters during the pandemic; and people who are most at risk of long-term homelessness. The cost depends on the timing of implementation.
Infrastructure Investment #2: Increasing Investment in the Housing Trust Fund and Public Housing
The Alliance recommends $40 billion for new and renovated residential buildings through the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). In many communities, new housing stock will be necessary to fully use new vouchers. The HTF is one of several federal programs that can fund development of affordable housing stock operated by private entities including nonprofits, and it is the one most carefully designed for housing that is affordable to people with the lowest incomes. A substantial fraction of the new units should be set aside for Permanent Supportive Housing.
The Alliance recommends at least $70 billion for public housing, to take care of the current repair and renovation backlog, and to avoid losing additional units. Public housing provides apartments owned by local housing authorities, with residents paying 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities, making it deeply affordable. For many years, however, Congress has underfunded the spending accounts that housing authorities need to keep these units in good repair.
Infrastructure Investment #3: Establishing a Community Capacity-Building Homelessness Services Grants Fund
The Alliance recommends that Congress provide $275 million annually for the Community Capacity-Building Fund, for: technical assistance to help communities make the best use of COVID homelessness funding; resources that smaller communities can pool to make large purchases; funding for communities to respond to emergencies such as large encampments, increases in unsheltered homelessness, or disasters; help for smaller systems to take advantage of additional resources; and encouragement to test promising new practices.
Infrastructure Investment #4: Funding, Coordinating, and Incentivizing the Provision of Supportive Housing Services
The Alliance commends the Administration’s proposal for a $400 billion investment through Medicaid in Home- and Community-Based Services and urges lawmakers to ensure that homeless families and individuals are included. Some people experiencing homelessness, i.e., those with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues, have acute needs which often require supportive housing services, including health care and casework, to find and stay in assisted housing. This item is under the jurisdiction of Congressional committees that handle health care, but the committees that understand housing and homelessness will need to weigh in, particularly in support of Department of Health and Human Services appropriations to build capacity to perform services, coordinate health care and housing services, and to cover the cost of services not paid for by Medicaid.
Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld (email@example.com) know if you have any questions about legislation and advocacy.