Nearly All Recent Section 8 Growth Results From Rising Housing Costs And Congressional Decisions To Serve More Needy Families

Publication Date: February 2004

Publisher: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Author(s): Will Fischer; Barbara Sard

Research Area: Social conditions

Keywords: Economic inequality; Economic projections; Housing assistance; Low-income housing

Type: Report


Administration officials have raised concerns that the Section 8 housing voucher program, the nation’s principal low-income housing assistance program, has grown excessively in recent years. They have said the Administration’s forthcoming budget will include proposals to reduce voucher costs.

Analysis of total expenditures (or “outlays”) for the Section 8 program, which includes both the voucher program and a “project-based” housing assistance program, shows that the great majority of recent Section 8 spending growth has been due to two factors: (1) Congressional decisions to expand the program to serve more of the families eligible for it; and (2) a widening of the gap between housing costs and the incomes of low-income families, especially during the recent economic downturn. The good news is that the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts expect the growth in voucher costs to slow markedly in the next few years, due primarily to the cooling of the housing market.