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Housing the Families Who Need it Most is Within Our Reach

In developing recommendations to address the nation’s urgent housing challenges, the Bipartisan Policy Center 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 Housing Commission issued a series of recommendations to reform federal rental assistance programs, including a proposal to expand the housing voucher program to ensure that rental assistance is universally available to all extremely low-income households?those with incomes at or below 30 percent of area median income?that desire it and are otherwise eligible.

This infographic illustrates the likely impact of these programmatic changes on the average number of new housing vouchers needed to satisfy the expected demand for them during the 10-year period from 2014 to 2023.

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 BPC Infographic - Housing Voucher Program

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Figures cited in this memo and the accompanying infographic are based on estimates by Abt Associates that update an analysis they completed in December 2012.

According to the 2011 American Housing Survey, there are 11.1 million ELI renter households of whom about 3.6 million receive some form of rental assistance. How many ELI households would apply for and successfully use rental assistance if the open enrollment program proposed by the Housing Commission were implemented today?

To answer this question, Abt Associates started by looking at the participation rate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), which may be regarded as a proxy for the likely share of eligible households that would choose to participate in an expanded housing voucher program. While all qualifying households are assured access to SNAP benefits, between 2001 and 2011 the average participation rate for households with incomes below the poverty line was only 80.8 percent, according to the USDA. Applying this rate, Abt estimated that approximately 8.9 million of the 11.1 million ELI renter households would apply for and be found eligible to receive rental assistance. Download the full background memorandum.

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