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Challenges to Expanding the HCV Program

Seth Embry, PHADA Policy Analyst

The topic of affordable housing is receiving unprecedented amounts of attention in the public consciousness. Despite almost a decade of economic expansion in the United States, a record-breaking stock market, and robust corporate earnings, households across the country are putting larger shares of their income towards housing costs. That fact, coupled with large numbers of people experiencing homelessness has prompted elected officials, researchers, and advocates to search for solutions to help people afford a home. Ideas are varied and range from refundable renter’s tax credits to developing new public housing. One interesting idea that many have focused on is an expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The HCV program is by all measures the largest federal housing assistance program in the country. In 2018, 5,259,207 people resided in the 2,276,722 households receiving the subsidy. By comparison, both the public housing and Project Based Section 8 programs housed approximately two million people each in 2018 – approximately 40 percent of HCV households. Those five million plus subsidized households come with a significant price tag; Federal spending on the HCV program exceeds $20 billion annually. The HCV program is popular because it allows the household receiving subsidy to find a home in the private market in the neighborhood of the family’s choosing. The confluence of resident control of where to live and utilization of the private market to the exclusion of the public sector keeps all sides of Congress satisfied.

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