Characteristics and Dynamics of Homeless Families with Children. 5.1 Federal, State, and Local Housing Policies


Federal Policies. The broadest implication of the information reviewed in this chapter and the implication most relevant at the Federal level is that there is a need for more funding for housing subsidies that follow the assisted housing model so that families trying to leave homelessness are not in direct competition with housed families with severe needs for housing assistance. In particular, the Housing Choice Voucher program should be kept as a program targeted to the neediest households with a subsidy formula that can help any family, however low its income, move into permanent housing. The voucher program should be expanding rather than static.

State Policies. In the current housing policy environment, affordable housing programs provide the growth opportunity both for mainstream subsidized rental housing and for permanent supportive housing. The entire LIHTC program is controlled at the state level, and states receive 40 percent of HOME funds. State governments also control many of the funding streams for services needed by homeless parents and, therefore, are in an excellent position to plan and coordinate housing and service resources.

States should provide a competitive advantage to LIHTC and HOME developments that have a preference or set-aside for homeless families needing permanent mainstream housing or that provide permanent supportive housing. Advocates and providers serving homeless families should be active at the state level in working for such choices by state policymakers. States should also be encouraged to create or expand housing trust funds and to dedicate a portion of these funds to mainstream or permanent supportive housing for families attempting to leave homelessness.

Local Policies. Local governments control 60 percent of HOME funds and, like states, should plan for the use of those funds in a way that helps homeless families achieve permanent housing. A particular use of HOME funds that can be chosen, and advocated for, at the local level, is tenant-based rental assistance funded by HOME.

PHAs are local public entities that have increasing discretion over the targeting of two of the three assisted housing programs: public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program. PHAs should consider ways of reestablishing preferences for families exiting homelessness and they should also work with providers of services for homeless families on other types of policies that make it easier for families trying to leave homelessness to use PHA-administered programs—for example, policies that help families repay past debts to the PHA.

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