Rent subsidies worthwhile but costly

Cuts to the Section 8 program are a result of congressional failure.

In “The President takes shelter in Xcel Center” (online editorial, Aug. 18), the Daily Editorial Board grossly misrepresented the Bush administration’s budgetary request for Section 8 and our plan for preserving the program.

Created in 1975, the Section 8 Voucher Program provides low-income families with full or partial assistance to rent housing in the private market. But since its inception, the program’s costs have skyrocketed out of control.

The Daily writes, “The government should fund programs that empower the public and make them more versatile in the job market.” We agree. In the past four years under President George W. Bush, funding for Section 8 has reached historic levels, increasing by 41 percent. The program now consumes about $20 billion annually, which is more than 50 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development budget. This growth is unsustainable.

Our Section 8 budget for the coming fiscal year was tied directly to the request that Congress pass our proposed reform – known as the Flexible Voucher Program. The Daily neglected to mention this important fact.

Unfortunately, Congress failed to adopt our reforms prior to completing work on HUD’s fiscal year 2005 funding bill, despite the reality that in its current form, Section 8 is broken beyond repair. As a result, the House Appropriations Committee was forced to cut funds from almost every HUD program to keep Section 8 going. Other programs such as Samaritan Initiative – a vital part of the plan to end chronic homelessness by the year 2012 – were cut entirely.

HUD’s supportive housing programs for the elderly, people with disabilities and people with AIDS were cut by a total of $56 million.

Our proposal provides an effective, efficient and flexible solution to a serious and growing problem. Had Congress passed the Flexible Voucher Program, the Samaritan Initiative would be preserved and other important programs would be fully funded. This administration is committed to providing the assistance so many U.S. families need, and we remain dedicated to preserving Section 8.

We are confident our reform would better serve the families receiving Section 8 and help even more families in need of housing.

Michael Liu is the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Please send comments to [email protected]