Time Limits for Public Housing Being Considered

The Wall Street Journal has an article that looks at some of the changes to public housing policies being considered by Congress and the Obama administration:

Momentum is building to let more housing authorities impose time limits or work requirements on tenants who move into public housing or receive the federal rental subsidy known as Section 8.

Competing plans in the Senate, House and Obama administration would broaden a 1996 project called Moving to Work, which allows a small group of housing authorities to set requirements aimed at promoting self-sufficiency among tenants…

Unlike welfare, which has a five-year limit for recipients, federal public-housing benefits generally are open-ended. But housing authorities in the Moving to Work program have waivers from regulations to try a range of strategies, such as requiring recipients to work, get job training or open savings accounts when their income rises. The elderly and disabled are exempt from the program.

With rents generally rising nationwide the competition for subsidized housing is fierce and the waiting lists are long.

Rising rents in the private market have helped fuel demand. The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in February that 7.7 million low-income households without housing assistance paid more than half their monthly income in rent and/or lived in “severely substandard housing” in 2013. That had dropped from a record of 8.5 million in 2011 but was up 49% from 2003’s figure, HUD said.

Meanwhile, those who get vouchers for rentals in privately owned buildings or spots in public housing often hang on to them. The average length of stay for all households is 9.3 years for public housing and 8.3 years for vouchers, with older adults remaining longest and families with children staying less time, HUD said. The disabled and those 62 or older make up about half of such households.

Numbers like these make it pretty clear why there’s an interest in finding a way to move people out of the subsidy programs.