Housing policy is often characterized by debate over the relative merits of vouchers versus subsidized production programs in creating affordable housing, stated John C. Weicher, author of "Housing Policy at a Crossroads: The Why, How, and Who of Assistance Programs" (AEI Press, December 2012), at an AEI event on Thursday. After briefly describing the history of housing programs, Weicher emphasized that voucher recipients are generally more satisfied with their housing, and that vouchers cost half as much as subsidized production programs.
Rudolph Penner of the Urban Institute expanded on the incentive structure of housing vouchers, concluding that in comparison to other federal benefit programs, vouchers provide a relatively mild work disencentive. Nevertheless, Penner indicated that austere budgets will not be favorable to Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 programs because growing entitlement costs will limit discretionary spending.
Sheila Crowley of the National Low Income Housing Coalition then discussed how competing rationales for providing housing to the poor have produced a complex web of programs that are nearly impossible for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement. She stressed that housing programs primarily serve the housing industry rather than the intended beneficiaries.
Finally, Ethan Handelman of the National Housing Conference proposed committing more resources at the local level to encourage the creation of affordable rental housing. He noted that the cost of rent is outside the control of the federal government and emphasized that production programs should continue to play a key role in increasing housing supply and keeping rents low.
Elevated unemployment rates and increasing budgetary concerns are placing competing pressures on low-income housing programs. At the same time, the public is often disappointed with the outcomes and effectiveness of various federal housing programs. In this environment, policymakers, officials, and advocates are called on to address tough questions: Which federal programs have most effectively served those in need of housing assistance? Which programs deliver the most benefit per dollar spent to the recipient? What reforms should smart policymakers pursue?
Join John C. Weicher, former assistant secretary for housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and author of “Housing Policy at a Crossroads” (AEI Press, January 2013), and a panel of experts for an engaging discussion of these pertinent questions. Books will be available for purchase.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.