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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg July 15, 2021

Joe Biden has a long way to go to meet housing goal

Joe Biden made a big promise on housing. On his campaign website, he said he would "provide Section 8 housing vouchers to every eligible family so that no one has to pay more than 30% of their income for rental housing."

Section 8 is the federal government's main program to make rent affordable for low-income families. Under the program, the family pays their portion of the rent for a private apartment or house — amounting to 30% of their household income — and the government covers the rest with a voucher. The government sets the rent and works with landlords who agree to participate.

Today, the program provides assistance to about 2.3 million households. But Biden's housing policy paper made it clear the country had a long way to go in getting help to everyone who qualifies. It said only a quarter of Section 8-eligible households were getting help.

In his 2022 budget request, Biden took the first step toward his goal. His budget asked Congress for an additional $5.4 billion for housing vouchers, enough to help an additional 200,000 households. 

Advocates such as the National Low Income Housing Coalition welcomed the move.

But even if Congress goes along, the gap between the number of families who qualify for help and those who would get it would remain wide.

The latest federal report on housing needs in America showed that as of 2017, about 7.5 million households qualified for help, but weren't getting it. (Families qualify if they make less than 50% of their area's median income.)

Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, said given the size of that gap, "200,000 vouchers is still only a down payment on the number of households in need of assistance."

While it seems unlikely that Biden will reach the goal he set in his campaign, for the moment, we rate this promise In the Works.

 

Our Sources

Joe Biden for President, The Biden plan for investing in communities through housing, March 5, 2020

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, Housing choice vouchers program,  accessed June 22, 2021

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, Fiscal Year 2022 HUD budget, May 28, 2021

Housing and Urban Development Department, Worst Case Housing Needs: 2019 Report To Congress, June 19, 2020

National Low Income Housing Coalition, President Biden Proposes 15% Increase to HUD Budget for FY22, April 9, 2021

Email exchange, Chris Herbert, managing director, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, July 15, 2021

 

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