NPR’s Planet Money podcast has cast its eye toward the “lottery” of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. The episode offers an overview of the program, and breaks the illusion of the “social safety net” in the US – that instead of a cohesive net as an analogy, a “collection of band-aids” may be more appropriate. One young mother also shares her struggle to find housing assistance while not “homeless enough”. (Living precariously with friends, but not yet in a shelter) Highly recommended listening!
In yet more evidence supporting the importance of housing assistance, a new paper from the St Louis Federal Reserve finds that for every year that girls and women between the ages of 13 and 18 live in public housing, adult earnings increase by 9 percent; for each year that their families received housing vouchers, their adult earnings increase by 6 percent.
Last week, Senator Cantwell announced a national campaign to expand funding for the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The proposed 50% increase would finance an estimated 35,000 affordable units in Washington State over the next decade, around 4,200 more units than would be possible under the status quo.
The LIHTC program is divided between noncompetitive “4%” tax credits and competitive “9%” tax credits. Both have the same funding mechanism, though the competitive “9%” level provides double the equity for housing projects, thus making it more feasible to serve households with incomes below 50% AMI, where Snohomish County’s greatest need is concentrated. The proposed increases would apply to the competitive program, and are sorely needed. Senator Cantwell’s office has also prepared a report on why this increase is needed, including an overview of what changes are being proposed.