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The federal government’s Housing Choice Voucher program is failing to keep up with the rising pace of rents, leaving rent-burdened households exposed to housing insecurity or homelessness, according to a new analysis.
Voucher values grew at less than half the pace of rents during the pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by Zillow. The analysis also found that there are 10 times more qualified voucher recipients than actual vouchers in most large American cities, suggesting vouchers are not being distributed to all who need them.
“Renters across the country are struggling as costs have skyrocketed and vouchers have failed to keep up,” Zillow Senior Economist Orphe Divounguy said in a statement. “Better calculating for voucher values and more funding are good short-term solutions, but building more homes is the long-term answer.”
The Housing Choice Voucher program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Vouchers provide rental assistance to low-income tenants by paying a portion of their rent directly to their landlords, with tenants making up the difference.
Eligibility for housing vouchers is determined by a tenant’s income and size of their family. Generally, a family’s income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income of their area, and a voucher holder should pay about 30 percent of their income in rent, with a voucher covering the rest.
Zillow’s research found that there was not a single metropolitan area across the United States with enough vouchers to meet demand. Several cities in Florida stood out for their extreme disparities in available vouchers versus renters who need them. Orlando had the highest disparity, with 12 households in need of a voucher for every available voucher, followed by Phoenix and Austin with both at 9 houses in need for every available voucher.
Between February 2020 and February 2022, the typical U.S. asking rent grew at the breakneck pace of 18 percent. Voucher values, meanwhile, grew by only 7 percent.
The disparity differed on the ground in various cities, but Florida, where housing costs skyrocketed during the pandemic, again stood out for having several cities with notable disparities between rent price growth and voucher value growth.
The cities with the top three highest disparities were all in Florida, lead by Miami, where rents outpaced voucher values by 47.8 percent. Miami was followed by Lee County and Palm Beach County, where rent outpaced voucher values by 46.5 and 38.9 percent respectively.