The HUD Section 8 voucher program – a critical affordable housing resource for low-income people with severe mental illnesses – is currently facing twin challenges that threaten existing rent subsidies in the current fiscal year (FY 2004) and next year (FY 2005). For both this year and next year, decisions being made by HUD and Congress in the coming months will determine whether housing authorities will have sufficient funding to keep rental assistance contacts in place under current rules.
The Section 8 program provides monthly rent subsidies to eligible individuals and families that pay the difference between monthly rental costs and what a low-income tenant can afford (i.e. 30% of the tenant’s income). Since the program was developed in the 1970s, HUD and Congress have always provided sufficient funding to local housing authorities to renew (i.e. keep in place) every existing rental voucher under lease. However, for this year and next year, administrative actions and proposed funding requests have placed this policy into question. If funding for this year or next year is insufficient, local housing agencies will be faced with the prospect of either canceling vouchers, cutting payments to landlords or raising tenant rents.
Recent HUD data indicates that for many housing authorities, non-elderly people with disabilities (including individuals with severe mental illnesses) are among the largest group of Section 8 voucher holders. This results in large part through federal requirements for housing agencies that administer Section 8 to target at least 75% of their vouchers to extremely low-income households (i.e., those at or below 30% of area median income). Likewise, people with mental illnesses and other disabilities would be most as risk of losing rental assistance if HUD and Congress fail to provide agencies with enough funds to meet the full cost of subsidy renewals for FY 2004 and FY 2005.
Last year, the Technical Assistance Collaborative and Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force published Priced Out in 2002, a national report comparing HUD fair market rents to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as a monthly cash benefit. The findings were alarming, though not surpassing: individuals living on SSI were (on average) at 18.5% of median income and would have to spend (on average) 105% of their monthly income to rent a modest 1-bedroom apartment. Data for each individual housing market is available in the full text of the Priced Out report, which can be downloaded at:
More information on the current threats to the Section 8 program is available at:
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