Threatened Section 8 Cutbacks Will Boost Los Angeles Homelessness
President Trump’s proposed $54 billion cutback in discretionary spending in order to fund a matching increase in the military budget hits hardest at programs for the poor and homeless. The most obvious is the $6.2 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cuts from other federal agencies that affect low-income people run the total to well over $10 billion, notably $4.2 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The proposed budget also eliminates the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness, the coordinating body for 19 government agencies that work on homelessness.
Overall, the proposed budget slashes funding for maintenance and repair of public housing units, which will contribute to future homelessness, and eliminates entirely Community Development Grants, used in Los Angeles to fund homeless shelters and rapid rehousing rent for the recently homeless.
The most direct effect on the homeless is a $300 million cut in Section 8 housing vouchers. This will eliminate 200,000 rent vouchers nationally, and 4,000 to 5,000 in Los Angeles. The Atlantic magazine reports that some public-housing agencies have already “decided not to open long-closed voucher waiting lists because of the uncertainty around the funding of the vouchers.”
Los Angeles has just passed two measures to massively increase housing for the homeless: November’s Proposition HHH, which authorized sale of $1.2 billion in bonds to build or rehab housing for 10,000 homeless persons over the next ten years, and the March 2017 Measure H, adding a quarter cent to the county sales tax, which will generate some $3.5 billion over the next decade to provide case management, mental health care, and job training for the prospective occupants of the new units. But a key part of this plan has been to use Section 8 vouchers to pay ongoing rent for the new homeless units. The proposed cutbacks, if approved by Congress, pose a major obstacle for the city’s homeless plans.
The proposed drastic cutbacks in funding and maintaining public housing pose a parallel threat of people who are now housed becoming homeless.