Seniors, Families, and Others Risk Losing Housing as Shutdown Continues

by Douglas Rice

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children that receive federal rental assistance face severe hardship if the government shutdown extends into February and March.

Here’s why:

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says it can’t renew up to 1,150 rental assistance contracts with private landlords that expired in December or will expire in January due to a funding shortfall from the government shutdown. Those landlords receive federal subsidies so they can provide apartments at affordable rents to roughly 70,000 low-income households. While a delay of several weeks in renewing the contracts (and restarting the subsidies) likely won’t prompt building owners to evict vulnerable residents, the risks for residents — and for the affected programs’ long-term future — will grow if the shutdown extends into February and March, dramatically boosting the number of residents who could experience severe hardship.

The largest of the currently affected programs is Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, although a few smaller programs, such as Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, may also be affected. In these programs, HUD contracts with private landlords to provide affordable housing to roughly 1.4 million low-income households. HUD’s monthly payments fill the gap between the tenants’ rent payments (typically 30 percent of household income) and the contract rent.

More than two-thirds of households in these programs are seniors or people with disabilities; most of the rest are families with children. On average, these households have incomes under $13,000, well below the federal poverty line. Housing aid significantly reduces poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and other hardships, studies show.

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