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Bipartisan Policy Center Measures Likely Participation in an Open-Enrollment Housing Voucher Program for Extremely Low-Income Households

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released a memorandum and supporting infographic measuring the likely participation in an open-enrollment housing voucher program for extremely low-income households.

In developing recommendations to address the nation’s urgent housing challenges, the BPC Housing Commission concluded that the “primary focus of federal housing policy should be to help those most in need.” With that principle in mind, the commission recommended transitioning to a new housing voucher program that targets assistance to extremely low-income (ELI) households – those earning 30 percent or less of area median income (AMI) – to ensure greater access to rental assistance for our nation’s most vulnerable families. Recent data suggest that achieving this goal is more reachable than commonly understood.

Click here to view and share the full memorandum and infographic.

According to the 2011 American Housing Survey, the latest year for which data are available, about 3.6 million of the 11.1 million ELI renter households receive some form of rental assistance. How many of the 11.1 million ELI renter households would successfully use vouchers if the open-enrollment program proposed by the Housing Commission were implemented today?

According to estimates provided by Abt Associates, under a reformed program in which all ELI renter households have access to assistance, approximately 8.9 million households (80.8 percent) will apply for and be found eligible to receive rental assistance.

Of the 8.9 million ELI renter households that apply and are found eligible for rental assistance, approximately 6.7 million households will be able to use it successfully and lease up.

Taking into account the 3.6 million ELI renter households who already receive assistance, an additional 3.1 million renters in this income category would therefore be expected to successfully use a voucher in the new program on an annual basis during the 10-year period from 2014 to 2023.

Higher-income households who transition out of the program and turn back their vouchers will help meet this increased demand for vouchers among ELI households. As assisted households with incomes above 30 percent of AMI transition off the program, an estimated 258,000 vouchers would become available for ELI households between 2014 and 2023. This attrition effect reduces the average annual gap between needed and available vouchers from 3.1 million to 2.9 million.

With 3.6 million households currently being assisted, and an additional 258,000 vouchers available through transition, the nation would be approximately 56% of the way toward helping 6.7 million ELI households in need.

KEYWORDS: EXTREMELY LOW-INCOME (ELI) HOUSEHOLDS, AMERICAN HOUSING SURVEY