The U.S. Department of Housing’s proposed 2005 budget contains sweeping reform of the nation’s rental assistance voucher program. The changes would help public housing authorities transition more low-income families self-sufficiency and reduce the number of families around the country who are on long waiting lists for assistance, according to the federal housing agency. The Sec. 8 program current assists 1.9 million households.

HUD’s proposed Flexible Voucher Program would provide local public housing authorites “more flexibility and less red tape to encourage (them) to manage effective programs,” according to HUD.

The plan would shift the rental assistance program from a unit-based distribution system to a dollar-based system in a system that HUD said would lower the costs. The average cost for each voucher has increased at an “alarming rate” of 23 percent in the last two years alone, according to HUD.

Currently HUD gives local authorities a specific number of vouchers they distribute to qualified families. This system caps the number of families each authority can assist. HUD said a dollar-based program, would enable authorities to design programs based on local needs.

“Today families must wait years to receive a voucher,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Michael Liu. “Our reforms are intended to create innovative solutions for those Americans in need of housing assistance.”

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