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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Data for Housing Advocacy Locally and Nationally

By the NCIL Housing Subcommittee

The nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), always a great resource for information, published data recently on the use of housing vouchers. This data is a tool for advocacy that can be used in many communities.

Advocate Holds Fair Housing Symbol at 2011 My Medicaid Matters RallyThe data and fact sheets can be found at the CBPP website. You will see five options at the top of the page, which mostly lead to the lower half of the page, so use this information to understand what the data is showing you.

When you click on your state in the map, you’ll be presented with two options: Federal Rental Assistance and Housing Choice Voucher. With those two options, you’ll be led to various data on who benefits from the programs and what the demographics are.

Those fact sheets can be useful in correcting misperceptions on who the rental assistance serves. Nationwide, with the federal rental assistance programs, the vast majority are used by the elderly (34%), people with disabilities (26%) or households with children (36%), with some overlapping. Only 11% are childless adults who are not elderly or have a disability. What are the percentages for your state?

When you go further down the page, you’ll be presented with the opportunity to get more detailed data on “Housing Choice Voucher Utilization Data,” “Data on Number of Families using Housing Vouchers,” and “Sequestration Cuts in Housing Choice Vouchers.” You’re given the opportunity to select year(s), your state, and then whichever agency or agencies you want to see. For instance, you could select all of the housing authorities in your CIL’s service area. Don’t forget the state housing finance agency if they have vouchers as well and allocate them in your community.

It is recommended that you export the data to Excel for easier viewing.

How does this data help you?

Housing Choice Voucher Utilization shows you what percent of authorized vouchers are in use. Is your housing authority doing a good job of making sure that a high percentage of vouchers are being used? Which housing authority is doing a terrible job of using its vouchers? This can be a local advocacy tool.

Data on Number of Families Using Housing Choice Vouchers show quarterly data from 2012 up to 2014. You can select multiple quarters, and it’ll let you see how many households are using the voucher each quarter.

More importantly, for advocates, the impact of the sequestration is in the third table. This is the estimated reduction in vouchers as of December 2014. Nationwide, CBPP estimates that 85,000 vouchers have been lost. You can find the estimated loss for the housing authorities in your community, and use that as an advocacy tool with legislators.

Remember that the budget sequestration started on March 1, 2013. With the quarterly data table, notice that nationally in every quarter since January-March 2013 to April-June 2014, the number of vouchers used has been falling. Every quarter for six straight quarters! Is this what is happening with your local housing authorities? Is this true of the housing authorities in your area? Have they been bleeding vouchers since January-March 2013? How many families are affected? It appears that many housing authorities are anticipating the need for further cuts, and are not reallocating vouchers that households are no longer using.

Be aware that the sequestration cuts are ongoing, and Congress is determined to keep it active (even though they are providing additional “off-books” funding to the Pentagon). Much advocacy is needed with Congress to end the use of sequestration to cut the funding for many programs, including housing.

Interested in housing advocacy? Join the NCIL Housing Subcommittee! Contact Brian Peters at [email protected].