Universalizing Section 8 will address poverty, boost the economy, and even stimulate affordable housing production-ultimately benefiting everyone, not just recipients. ‘
President Joe Biden’s campaign commitment to fully fund affordable rental assistance programs so that every eligible American can receive assistance is more than a part of his or her housing plan. It is also a commitment to change the country by finally ensuring that the basic right to housing is included in our social safety net. After the pandemic that crystallized the importance of housing, the time was right for bold thinking.
Congress agrees. That’s why the reconciliation package currently includes a $ 90 billion Section 8 program expansion, representing the largest expansion in program history. An expansion of that kind should be viewed as a down payment to the universalization of the program, and it is someone that Americans should applaud.
Here in New York, for example, about 70 percent of very low-income New York tenants who pay more than half of their rental income in large part because there is a statewide shortage of more than 600,000 affordable rental homes. But also because Congress underfunded federal life-changing programs like Section 8 to the point that only 23 percent of eligible households would receive assistance from the program. That will change the general Section 8 – and new research from the New York Housing Conference shows the exact force of how that change is both in the Empire State and across the country.
In a report by HR&A Advisors, we found that only 1.1 million New York households would benefit from rental assistance if it was fully funded. Nationally, that means a 22.5 percent reduction in poverty by doubling the remaining household disposal income after housing costs. That would mean an additional $ 7,680 per year to pay for food, medicine, child care, transportation, and other necessities.
The new economic freedom will benefit the entire community. In New York alone, it could catalyze $ 8.5 billion in additional spending each year, creating 96,000 new jobs and a total of $ 14.7 billion in new economic activity overall. In turn, boosts local and regional revenues, as New York State will generate $ 424 million in additional tax revenue each year – New York City will receive $ 313 million – to meet other pressures that issues facing the state.
Of the beneficiaries, more than half will be single female -headed families; the third will reach households with children in their care. And a massive amount, nearly 70 percent, are Black or Latinx households, meaning this is an important opportunity to address decades of discrimination and racism in American housing policy. It will also allow New York City to increase affordable housing production by 33 percent.
While we only studied the effects in New York, where we are based, similar effects can be seen in every state and locality across the country. Universalizing Section 8 will address poverty, boost the economy, and even stimulate affordable housing production-ultimately benefiting everyone, not just recipients. It’s hard to imagine a more changeable policy.
Realizing these benefits is not a distant, idealistic dream. In fact, the opportunity is before us. Only by making a different choice – recognizing the fundamental importance of a safe, secure home – do we have the power to change America for the better. This is an investment in our country that we cannot afford to pass up.
Rachel The bill is the Executive Director of the New York Housing Conference, who commissioned the report with HR&A Advisors.