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Exploring A Universal Housing Voucher

By The Housing Initiative at Penn, Claudia Aiken, Jenna Epstein, | September 21, 2021

Stoneleigh Fellow Vincent Reina and his Housing Initiative at Penn colleagues have published a new interactive report that explores what it might look like if every home in need received a housing voucher.

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) is a portable subsidy that households can use to rent a housing unit in the private market. The voucher covers the difference between 30% of the household’s income and the full cost of rent (up to a maximum rent level set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). This means that as household income fluctuates, so does the amount of the subsidy, ensuring that the household does not become housing cost burdened.

The HCV program is currently the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) largest subsidy program, serving about 2.3 million households across the country. Households generally must not have incomes above 50% of the area median income in order to qualify for the benefit. But even at this scale, the number of vouchers available is far lower than the number of households eligible to receive one. In fact, we estimate that in 2019, only about one in five households eligible for a voucher actually received one and was able to use it. And meanwhile, a global pandemic has worsened the U.S.’ already severe shortage of affordable housing options.

View the Full Report