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Housing as an entitlement

Unlike food stamps (SNAP) or Medicaid, housing subsidies are not entitlements, they are the luck of the draw

Better housing policy can save money
  Erika C. Poethig, writing in the Washington Post argues that broadening the base of housing subsidies can reduce costs of other Federal programs. In "Better housing policy could save us all money. Why are we ignoring it?" Ms. Poethig says "Today, nearly 20 million renter households qualify for federal rental assistance, but only one in four receives it. There is simply not enough money appropriated by Congress to cover everyone who qualifies for rental assistance. In contrast, all qualified homeowners filing an itemized tax return receive the mortgage interest deduction, regardless of their income. The United States needs a more balanced housing policy that invests equally in homeownership and rental housing." 
     And, according to Ms. Poethig, making that shift will save Federal expenditures in other programs. " Stable housing generates cost savings in other federal programs: Evidence suggests that for homeless families that face affordability challenges, rental assistance is more effective than costly services, such as psychosocial interventions and therapies. In fact, targeting housing assistance to extremely low-income families is the most cost-effective strategy for reducing childhood poverty in the United States. " Ms. Poethig argues for targeting rental assistance to families with children and the elderly in order to get the most social cost savings, but targetting to certain demographic groups raises the cost of the programs. The proliferation of special needs housing and special needs vouchers is evidence of a failed policy. Moving towards universal coverage makes more sense.
      Making housing assistance a real entitlement starts with Tax Reform that shifts the balance of Federal Housing Assistance away from wealthy homeowners towards the lowest income renters, but requires that programs like Housing choice vouchers (HCV) and project based rental assistance (PBRA) be simplified to reduce administrative overhead. 
posted October 17, 2016

 
 What's News?
Make housing affordability an entitlement?
Slate magazine offers some solutions to housing affordability. "Too many Americans live on the edge of eviction. Could this ambitious plan fix the problem?" Author Jake Blumgart spends a lot of time on Desmond's proposal for Universal Housing Vouchers, but also pays attention to expanding Earned Income Tax Credits to cover replace vouchers or creating a Renter's tax credit. Worth a read!



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