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Estimating Participation in an Expanded Voucher Program

The Challenge

The limited number of federally funded vouchers in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program means that families seeking assistance in the program often face waiting lists of two years or longer. A frequently repeated estimate is that only one of four qualifying renter households is able to obtain assistance through HCV, the federal government’s largest low-income housing assistance program. HCV provides rental assistance to more than two million households who use the subsidy to rent units available in the private market.

The Approach

Abt Associates, at the request of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), estimated the costs of serving different subgroups of low-income households under a policy scenario in which the HCV program was open to all members of those subgroups who needed the assistance. Abt developed a series of tables to identify the size of the need and calculate the annual costs of the HCV program for different segments of the low-income renter population, such as currently unassisted households with extremely low incomes and households in severely or moderately inadequate housing. The team also modeled these costs over a 10-year period. Finally, Abt's researchers – Jill Khadduri, Larry Buron, and Bulbul Kaul – estimated the size of the need and the costs of a flexible emergency rental assistance program that would serve families facing a crisis that could lead to homelessness.

The Results

Abt's estimates informed the BPC Housing Commission's recommendations for sweeping changes in federal housing policy, published in February 2013.