Universal Housing Vouchers


September 29, 2023 Shelterforce. A Critical Look at the Section 8 Program, a Webinar. "Shelterforce investigative reporter Shelby R. King was a guest on this UNC Greensboro Center for Housing and Community Studies webinar about how Section 8 has failed to meet the need for affordable housing, and how the program could be reformed." Watch the video here

The case for Universal Housing Vouchers rhinoUP for 7/10/22

The easiest way to explain Universal Housing Vouchers (UHV) is to look at foodstamps. If you qualify for foodstamps based on your income, you get them. No lottery. No waiting list. No past record of eviction. No bad credit. Like foodstamps, the value of a housing voucher is based on the difference between household income and need. For housing vouchers, there's a fair market rent for your community that is recalculated to account for inflation. Just as foodstamps have some restrictions on what items can be purchased, housing vouchers could not be used in rental units that fail to meet basic standards. With foodstamps (now called SNAP), the family receives the benefit (not the food seller). In the same way, a UHV benefit would be paid to tenant, who then makes a single rent payment to the landlord.

Best of all, UHVs could be managed by local public housing authorities (PHAs). No new bureaucracy to be created. Simplification means savings. 

There will be three big issues that need to be addressed when UHVs replace the existing Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

Beyond dramatically expanding housing opportunities, a UHV entitlement could reshape the Federal housing policy strategy by complementing existing housing programs. For example:

OK, so what are the next steps?

1. Tenants need to be introduced to the UHV concept. A housing entitlement is a whole new concept for folks who have grown up believing that housing is lottery.

2. Legislation needs to be introduced in Congress. You can't beat something with nothing. Once there's a cadre of activist leaders (step 1), they will have a cause to fight for. 

3. Policy makers (advocates) will need to work with activists and organizers. Making change requires the energy of the grassroots and the expertise of their advocacy allies. Both are necessary, but neither is sufficient.