Why do we need organizations like IHN? Doesn’t the government provide housing for people who are struggling financially?

While the government does provide help with housing, getting that help is complicated. Housing programs are classified into different sections based on need, income, and a variety of other requirements depending on the assistance needed. According to Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for Massachusetts, an organization that oversees funding and placement of families in need, three major government programs in Massachusetts provide state-aided housing. One of the most well-known rental assistance programs in Massachusetts is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). This federally funded program assists families with a meager annual income who are struggling to make ends meet on a monthly rent basis, along with helping the elderly, and the disabled to afford safe and livable homes. Section 8 vouchers pay the difference between the amount due and what the tenant can pay out of their income. Another assistance program is Massachusetts’ Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), which is funded by the Commonwealth. This program assists the same group of people. Similarly to Section 8, these individuals pay only 30-40% of their income for housing and the voucher covers the rest. The third largest program funded by the Commonwealth is the Massachusetts Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities under age 60, who either live in or are eligible to live in elderly/disabled state-assisted public housing.

Although these rental assistance programs are beneficial, there are strict qualifications one must meet to be eligible to apply. For example, MRVP applicants must make no more than 50% of the area’s median income and face limits based on family size. Recipients of the AHVP voucher must be under the age of 60 and already be approved for elderly or disabled housing assistance by the state of Massachusetts. The individual or family must also earn less than 80% of the median area income annually even to be considered by the state.

But meeting these requirements is only part of the battle. Once a household meets the requirements for their selected program and sends in an application, the waiting period can last from one month to several years. The National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy organization, presents some startling statistics about wait lists and wait times in a 2016 report on the problem:

“Housing Choice Voucher waiting lists had a median wait time of 1.5 years for housing assistance. Twenty-five percent had a wait of at least 3 years. Twenty-five percent of the largest PHAs (5,000+ vouchers and public housing units combined) with HCV waiting lists had a wait time of at least 7 years. The average HCV waiting list consisted of 2,013 households.”

The problematic reality of getting on government assisting housing is evident in the United States because of the dramatic increase of families applying to these programs. This can be attributed to the rise of rent prices, the wages of low-income workers becoming stagnant, and the increase of demand for these programs. Many families are seeking a home and financial help in order to survive during these long wait periods. Fortunately, IHN is there to provide a home and support the needs of families so they can eventually get on a government assisted housing program or find housing in the private market.