Example Of Housing Policy And Program Review Essay
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Housing, Homelessness, Choice, Policy, Income, Taxes, Real Estate, Government
The implementation of policy is an important aspect of governance because it is one of the mechanisms that bring about development. Policies, for instance, enable the government to create statutes and mechanisms to deliver services to people (Calabro, 88). In turn, good governance is a standard for government leaders to ensure the just distribution of resources to all citizens of the state. As a result, the implementation of policies should ideally foster socio-political and economic development. Assessing the impact of policies, however, is necessary to determine their merits and shortcomings. In doing so, legislators would be able to identify the flaws and inefficiencies of policies and consequently incorporate amendments to improve the delivery of services to all (Wanna, Butcher & Freyens, 283). Considering the aforementioned points, the main objective of the research is to assess a specific policy implemented in the United States.
Historical Origin and Evolution of the Policy
Housing assistance in the United States began in the 1930s during the Great Depression when global economic recession plunged thousands of families into poverty. The federal government sought to develop a policy to assist low-income families afford their own homes. In 1937, the legislation of the US Housing Act led to mandates for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to acquire properties and manage the provision of housing for intended targets or recipients. Since then, PHAs were able to acquire millions of units. To widen access to housing services in the country, US Congress extended its program to the private sector during the 1970s. This initiative resulted in the legislation of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which amended the Housing Act of 1937. The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 led to the creation of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
Legislators in the US created several mechanisms such as the Housing Choice Voucher program in order to widen housing opportunities by tapping into the private sector’s resource. The main objective of the program is to help vulnerable populations, particularly low-income families afford housing units through subsidized rental payments. Although the program has served thousands of low-income families well, there remains to be room for improvement.
The inadequacies of the program, which will be discussed in the latter part, necessitates improvement. Turner recommended three ways to strengthen the voucher program – enabling PHAs to provide counselling and assistance to help existing and potential recipients make decisions on housing, providing landlords with incentives to accommodate potential tenants who depend on vouchers, and collaborating among PHAs and related government agencies to ensure residential mobility and the distribution of housing subsidies to all. Overall, the need to improve the provision of housing subsidies for the program’s target recipients lends to furthermore improvement of the voucher program. Hence, identifying all the inadequacies and limitations of the program could bring to light solutions to improve the delivery of services and widen provision.
Policy Objectives and Targets
The Housing Choice Voucher program aims to provide affordable, clean, and safe housing to vulnerable populations under the private sector. The program’s target recipients include the senior or elderly population, people with disabilities, and low-income families. It is the responsibility of the voucher recipients to find a suitable housing unit for themselves or their families. Recipients are also allowed to use the vouchers to pay rent for their current household units (HUD). One of the advantages of the voucher program is that recipients may choose the ideal home for them depending on their needs and situation. Recipients may also choose to use their vouchers to either rent or purchase a housing unit. Moreover, the program’s services do not include geographical restrictions. The federal government’s housing provision is available in all states. Existing voucher recipients may also move to other housing units including those located in other states and would still continue to receive benefits and subsidies.
Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administer vouchers and subsidies in local communities. PHAs receive housing funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Recipients of subsidies do not receive the vouchers. PHAs directly pay the cost of rent to landlords. The recipients then pay the remaining amount of rent. By law, PHAs should provide 75 percent of vouchers to recipients whose income are below 30 percent of the median income. Overall, eligible individuals are those whose income fall below 50 percent of the median income. To determine the eligibility of target recipients, PHAs assess the household income of individuals and families. Furthermore, recipients must be American citizens although some non-citizens are eligible for vouchers depending on their immigrant status, and with limited annual income. PHAs assess and verify information with banks, employers, and other agencies to ensure recipients’ eligibility (HUD).
Interest Groups in the Policy Debate
One of the main issues concerning the Housing Choice Voucher program is that the existing number of units offered by PHAs exceed the total number of individuals in need of housing assistance. Hence, people are put on the waiting list. Consequently, people on the list wait for a long period of time before receiving vouchers. In some instances, PHAs scrap their waiting list when the number of people on the list reach a certain number (HUD). “Thus, even though vouchers work quite well for those lucky enough to receive them, 6.1 million low-income renters still face sever housing hardship” (Turner). For this reason, the system is flawed because despite the expansion of housing programs in the US, the market is still unable to meet the demand of low-income families for housing.
Daniel (770) also discussed another issue that underscores the limitations of the Housing Choice Voucher program. Based on research studies, Daniel (770) discovered that despite the validity of vouchers, some landlords refuse to take them as payment. For this reason, landlords turn down tenants who rely on vouchers. Social stigma about people relying on welfare cause landlords to discriminate against this population. Without a policy in place to uphold the rights of vulnerable populations, particularly when it comes to housing, landlords can easily turn them away despite their capacity to pay for rent. “Voucher discrimination has pushed some states and localities to adopt statutes and ordinances that prevent a landlord from discriminating against prospective tenants because of their source of income” (Daniel, 771). While some states began implementing strict ordinances to prevent landlords from turning away tenants, this rule does not apply to all states and many people continue to experience discrimination.
Aside from the inadequacy of housing units and discrimination against tenants, other issues that must be addressed through further policy development include the limited number of affordable rental housing and the ineffective management of housing provision in local communities. Many recipients are unable to find housing units due to the cost of rent. The main issue here is that the subsidized amount of vouchers do not cover enough of the rent or payment for housing units in a way that would allow them to pay the remaining amount using their income. Landlords also refuse to tenants who depend on vouchers because the scheme does not include security deposits. This becomes one of the reasons behind landlords’ decision to turn away potential tenants.
Policy Impacts and Effectiveness
The Housing Choice Voucher program has contributed to an increase in vacancy rates across all states. Based on studies, immigrant populations from low-income families have significantly benefited from the program (Turner). Aside from increasing vacancy rates, the program has also raised the standards of living across the nation because part of the policy includes frequent inspections of housing units. PHAs conduct frequent inspections of housing units rented out or sold to voucher recipients in an effort to ensure that they are living in a home that meets the Housing Quality Standards (Eberlin). Recipients also laud the Housing Choice Voucher program because it allows residential mobility such that their benefits are not bounded to a geographical region. Recipients may still move and continue to receive subsidies. Furthermore, recipients may choose the kind of residence and its location for their housing (Turner).
In Utah, the Housing Choice Voucher program has been relatively successful compared to other states. Based on the 2010 Census, the total population in Utah reached 2.7 million while the total number of households amount to around 870,000. Out of the total number of households in the state, 29.57 percent of which are rental households. As formerly noted, Utah fares well when it comes to the provision of housing subsidies. The state’s vacancy rate is at 6.1 percent one of the lowest and the median rent is mid-range at an average of $800 per month compared to other states (Affordable Housing Online).
Another indication of the impact and success of the Housing Choice Voucher program in Utah is the number of Section 8 vouchers available for target recipients. Government-assisted housing in Utah reached more than 20,000 units and federal and state housing agencies are working on more than 400 projects (Affordable Housing Online). In addition, vouchers provided for low-income families reached more than 11,000 units in 2010. Table 1, 2, and 3 below summarize housing statistics in Utah.
Housing Programs, Projects and Units in Utah
Source: Affordable Housing Online
Affordable Housing Units by County in Utah
Source: Affordable Housing Online
Affordable Housing Units by City in Utah
Source: Affordable Housing Online
The foregoing discussion explores the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. As formerly noted, policy development and implementation are crucial to governance, especially the delivery of services and resources to all. Reviewing and assessing policies, however, are highly important to determine their strengths and weaknesses and consequently implement amendments to improve the delivery of services. The Housing Choice Voucher program provides subsidies for the disabled, elderly, and low-income population. PHAs shoulder a percentage of the cost of housing rent or payment while the recipients pay the remaining amount to the landlord.
A review and assessment of the Housing Choice Voucher program reveal opposing viewpoints and perspectives about it. On one hand, the program has helped many disadvantaged and immigrant recipients in acquiring housing units. Data obtained from existing literature and the statistics of housing in Utah prove that thousands of people benefit from the program. On the other hand, inefficiencies exist in the delivery of services due to flawed management of housing by PHAs, the limited number of housing units, and other issues that prevent recipients and tenants from taking advantage of available welfare services. Overall, the discussion underscores the need for the amendment of existing policies and programs in housing in order to widen coverage and improve the delivery of services.
Affordable Housing Online. “Rental Housing in Utah.” N.p., 2015. Web. <http://affordablehousingonline.com/housing-search/Utah/>.
Calabro, Andrea. Governance structures and mechanisms in public service organizations. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.
Daniel, Tamica H. Bringing real choice to the housing choice voucher program: Addressing voucher discrimination under the federal fair housing act. The Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 98 (2010), 769-794.
Eberlin, Erin. “Cons of the Housing Choice Voucher Program”. N.p., Web. <http://landlords.about.com/od/Landlord101/a/Disadvantages-Of-Renting-To-Section-8-Tenants.htm>.
Fairfax County Virginia. "Important Changes to the Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing Programs: Coming July 1 - Fairfax County, Virginia." N.p., 2015. Web. <http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/rha/changes.htm>.
Feins, Judith D., and Rhiannon Patterson. "Geographic Mobility in the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Study of Families Entering the Program, 1995—2002." Cityscape (2005): 21-47.
HUD. “Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet.” N.p., 2015. Web. <http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/about/fact_sheet>.
HUD.GOV. "Housing Choice Voucher Program Guidebook - HUD." N.p., 2015. Web. <http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/forms/guidebook>.
Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority. "The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV) - SNRHA Nevada." N.p., Web. <http://www.snvrha.org/housing-choice-voucher.htm>.
Turner, Margery Austin. “Strengths and weaknesses of the housing voucher program”. N.p., 2003. Web. < http://www.urban.org/publications/900635.html>.
Wanna, John, Butcher, John, & Freyens, Benoit. Policy in action: The challenge of service delivery. UNSW Press, 2010.