The Case for New Vouchers

Bill Faith, of the Columbus, Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio praised the $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund in the Jobs for Main Street Act, but warned that “capital funding, on its own, doesn’t necessarily get the rents down,” and said that funding, coupled with with vouchers could get the trust fund “really effective.” Faith spoke on a panel at the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual policy conference that sought to make the argument for at least an additional 250,000 vouchers for FY2011 — part of NLIHC’s long-term campaign to double the voucher program over the next 10 years.

The administration allocated set aside $85 million for 10,000 new vouchers in the 2011 budget, and while Faith said that set-aside was “important, it’s a drop in the bucket.

We’re talking about doubling the size of the voucher program. It’s happened before and we’re just trying to do it again: 2.5 million vouchers for the next 10 years and we can do it if we get a campaign going, as well as work with the administration and members of Congress.”

Will White, a staff member of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and the former director of the Portland, Ore. Bureau of Housing and Community Development, pointed to renters paying upwards of 70 percent of their income on rent, leading to increased difficulty in paying for other necessities. The need for providing capital funding for more housing vouchers, White said, “is very clear, but the stumbling block is getting the funding that we need.

“This is a moment where we should be prepared to see better results that we’ve seen in a decade.”

The problem, White said, is a packed legislative agenda, that includes health care, financial regulatory reform, global climate change, energy, immigration, a new Supreme Court nominee, as well as the upcoming 2010 mid-term elections, when members will be campaigning in their districts, and away from Capital Hill.

“By the time we get to the fall, we’re going to see fewer legislative days than you did in 2009. And when you finally do get to housing, as has been the focus this year and last year, it’s been on people who have already owned a home, and not the people who don’t have a place to live. Congress and the White House have been focused on foreclosure, but we need to get Congress to pay more attention for people of low-income who don’t have an apartment that they can afford to rent.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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