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The Role of Housing Choice Vouchers in Addressing America’s Rental Housing Crisis
By Oriya Cohen, Housing Matters | April 7, 2020
Stoneleigh Fellow Vincent Reina spoke to Housing Matters about his research on the role of vouchers in addressing the rental affordability crisis and the benefits and drawbacks of subsidizing housing through vouchers.
The economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting renters hardest at a time when federal spending on rental assistance programs is already failing to keep up with the rising cost of rental housing and the demand for housing assistance in the United States. As of 2017, only one in four eligible low-income households received federal housing assistance. Coupled with an affordable housing shortage in almost every county in the United States, this lack of assistance is forcing more than 70 percent (PDF) of extremely low–income renters to spend more than half of their incomes on housing.
As the federal government responds to COVID-19 (PDF) with additional rental assistance dollars to support families, landlords, and housing agencies, it’s more critical than ever that local, state, and federal policymakers understand which federal programs can address which parts of the rental affordability crisis and for whom.
The housing choice voucher program is the largest federal rental assistance program administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The voucher program works within private rental markets to help low-income households find rental housing that best fits their needs. But its reliance on the private market can limit the program’s ability to serve low-income families. For example, supply shortages and landlord preferences can prevent families from ever using their vouchers. We spoke to Vincent Reina, assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, about his research on the role of vouchers in addressing the rental affordability crisis and the benefits and drawbacks of subsidizing housing through vouchers.