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Federal Government Aid for the Homeless - Federally Subsidized Housing

households programs public 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%20(accessed March 10, 2005)

Fiscal year
Fiscal year
Fiscal year
Homeless assistance programs
Homeless assistance grants 1,217 1,260 1,257
Shelter plus care renewals 193 193
Samaritan housing program 50
Emergency food and shelter 153
Total, homeless 1,217 1,260 1,485
Public and Indian housing
Housing certificate fund 15,938 16,413 16,909
Public housing capital fund 2,712 2,696 2,674
Revitalization of severely distressed public housing projects 570 149
Public housing operating fund 3,577 3,579 3,573
Native American housing block grants 645 650 647
Total, public and Indian housing 23,425 23,493 23,756

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%20(accessed March 10, 2005)

Below poverty level
Type of benefit received 1980 1990 1995 2000 Total Number Percent of total Above poverty level
Total households 82,368 94,312 99,627 106,418 111,278 13,505 100 97,773
Receiving at least one noncash benefit 14,266 16,098 21,148 20,131 22,478 7,806 58 14,672
Not receiving cash public assistance 7,860 8,819 13,335 14,465 16,890 5,003 37 11,887
Receiving cash public assistance* 6,470 7,279 7,813 5,667 5,588 2,803 21 2,785
Total households receiving—
Food stamps 6,769 7,163 8,388 5,563 6,245 3,834 28 2,411
School lunch 5,532 6,252 8,607 7,185 7,930 3,092 23 4,838
Public housing 2,777 4,339 4,846 4,689 5,125 2,593 19 2,532
Medicaid 8,287 10,321 14,111 14,328 16,765 6,182 46 10,583
*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.

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%20(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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about 7 years ago

I do not care about statistics of homelessness. I want to know how to apply for housing. And why is there a 2-5 yr wait list? some of the homeless need immediate help. I dont see anything out there especially if your single and homeless.

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about 7 years ago

Hi, i have been homeless 10 month living out on the streets still looking for help. i have apply for SSD, i have adhd and also have been denial twice and waiting for and answer from my appeal. And still waiting. I am in disparate need of help. My family lives in Naples , Florida that my parents and my one and only son of the age of 9yr. i have apply all type of assistance and nothing is coming postive for me at all. I had to sell my vechile becaus it stop running plus part was in need to get fix. With out money had to sell the vechile to the junk yard just to make it thought the days. Recived $200.00 gone by less than weeks.

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