A government-funded voucher program that helps cover the cost of rent reduced the number of low-income families with children that lived in shelters or on the streets by over 75 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It also slashed the total of families without a home of their own by 80 percent.
Yet low-income housing assistance programs have fallen victim to sequestration, which led to cuts of more than $2 billion in 2013. In December of 2013 alone, 70,000 fewer low-income families had access to housing vouchers compared to the year before. Congress reinstated some funding that sequestration took away, but the damaging effects were already felt last year by agencies and families. Families found themselves removed from waiting lists or even stripped of vouchers they already had.
For over 10 million low-income renters nationwide, housing costs consume half of their monthly payments. The difference between median monthly income and median housing costs among the low-income demographic is a mere $140, leaving barely any money to spend on food and other products. Families headed by people who are elderly or living with a disability account for nearly 40 percent of these economically distressed households.
Evidence cited in the CBPP report also shows that welfare-to-work programs generally benefit families with housing aid more than others. Approximately two-thirds of those receiving voucher aid who were not elderly or disabled work or worked recently, so the assistance is not a means of discouraging employment. Rather, it has proven a valuable tool for working families burdened by unforgiving housing prices, who are often driven into housing insecurity or homelessness despite maintaining or seeking employment.