Federal Government Aid for the Homeless - Federally Subsidized Housing
households public programs poverty
The national effort to provide housing for those in need is far more massive than would be indicated by the expenditure of about $1.5 billion on assistance to the homeless. HUD's expenditures on public and Native American housing were projected to be $23.8 billion in FY 2005. (See Table 5.2.) If these funds are added to projected expenditures on homeless programs, total spending on subsidized housing in FY 2005 would be $25.3 billion. Of this total, 5.8% is allocated to helping the homeless and 94.2% to ensuring that people do not become homeless. To help people stay housed, the government has housing programs that help poor and low-income people.
Households in Subsidized Housing
In 2002 over 5.1 million families, or 4.6% of U.S. households, lived in subsidized housing. (See Table 5.3.) Of those in subsidized housing, 2.6 million households had income below the officially defined poverty level; these households were 2.3% of all households and just over half of all subsidized households (51%).
The U.S. Census Bureau provides estimates of families living in poverty and of poverty-stricken households (a sector that includes family as well as nonfamily groups and singles). In 2002 there were roughly seventy-five million families in the United States but more than 111 million households. The Census Bureau estimated in
TABLE 5.2 HUD budget authority for homeless and public housing programs, 2002-04 [In millions of dollars] SOURCE: Adapted from "Appendix B. Budget Authority by Program," in Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Summary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, February 2004, http://www.hud.gov/about/budget/fy05/budgetsummary.pdf (accessed March 10, 2005)
Fiscal year 2003
Fiscal year 2004
Fiscal year 2005 (estimate)
Homeless assistance programs
Homeless assistance grants
Shelter plus care renewals
Samaritan housing program
Emergency food and shelter
Public and Indian housing
Housing certificate fund
Public housing capital fund
Revitalization of severely distressed public housing projects
Public housing operating fund
Native American housing block grants
Total, public and Indian housing
Statistitcal Abstract of the United States 2004-2005 that in 2002 more than 13.5 million households lived below the poverty level. Elsewhere, the Census Bureau estimated that 7.2 million families (or 9.6% of all families) were living in poverty in 2002 (Poverty in 2002, U.S. Census Bureau, September 2003). In 2002 more than 5.1 million households lived in subsidized housing. (See Figure 5.1.) In the 1990-2002 period, those in subsidized housing peaked in 2002. Total households living in subsidized housing increased 18.1%.
Types of Programs
Virtually all government housing programs are targeted to poor or low-income households. For this reason subsidized housing is "means-tested," meaning that the income of those receiving help must be below a certain threshold. The qualifying income level—much like the definition of poverty—changes over time. Beneficiaries of housing assistance never receive cash outright. The benefits are therefore labeled "means-tested noncash benefits."
HUD has operated many different kinds of housing programs, but these can be classified under three headings: public housing owned by the government, tenant-based programs that provide people vouchers to subsidize rent, and project-based programs that underwrite the costs of private owners who, in turn, pledge to house low-income people.
Public housing and voucher programs account for roughly equal proportions of subsidized units. Project-based programs, also known as "private subsidized
TABLE 5.3 Households receiving means-tested noncash benefits, 1980-2002 [In thousands (82,368 represents 82,368,000), except percent. Households as of March of following year.] SOURCE: "No. 522. Households Receiving Means-Tested Noncash Benefits, 1980 to 2002," in Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2004-2005, U.S. Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/socinsur.pdf (accessed March 10, 2005)
Below poverty level
Type of benefit received
Percent of total
Above poverty level
Receiving at least one noncash benefit
Not receiving cash public assistance
Receiving cash public assistance*
Total households receiving—
*Households receiving money from Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (beginning 2000, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program), Supplemental Security Income program or other public assistance programs.
Note: Data covers civilian noninstitutional population, including persons in the armed forces living off post or with their families on post. A means-tested benefit program requires that the household's income and/or assets fall below specified guidelines in order to qualify for benefits. There are general trends toward underestimation of noncash beneficiaries. Households are classified according to poverty status of family or nonfamily householder.
FIGURE 5.1 Households living in subsidized housing, 1990-2002 SOURCE: Created by Melissa Doak for Information Plus from "Households Receiving Means-Tested Noncash Benefits: 1980 to 2002," in Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Census Bureau, 1992-2005 http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/socinsur.pdf (accessed March 10, 2005)
projects," account for the most units, but these "private subsidies" take many forms, some quite complicated. A look at the major programs follows.
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