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Housing Update: Bush Administration Proposal to Block Grant Section 8 Program Poses Threat to Housing Opportunities for Low-Income People with Mental Illnesses

The Bush Administration’s proposed FY 2005 budget for HUD contains a plan to convert the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to a block grant to be administered by Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). The Administration is also requesting $1 billion less in FY 2005 than would be needed to renew every current Section 8 voucher under lease. NAMI has joined with colleague disability organizations in the Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force in opposing this proposal. NAMI believes strongly that block granting the Section 8 program as the Administration is proposing, would have disastrous consequences for people with disabilities with extremely low-incomes, in particular recipient of SSI who are on average at 18% of area median income.

NAMI shares a number of concerns about this proposal with CCD other advocacy groups:

  • The proposed reduction in funding of $1 billion for FY 2005 could result in at least 250,000 people losing their Section 8 assistance. At least 50,000 of those losing assistance would be people with disabilities,
  • The elimination of targeting requirements for extremely low-income households would make it difficult for people with disabilities on Section 8 waiting lists to ever get assistance,
  • The elimination of restrictions on tenant rent contributions would result in much higher rents for people with disabilities,
  • Time limits on vouchers that would be allowed under the proposal could be disastrous for individuals with permanent disabilities and chronic illnesses, thereby forcing them into homelessness or institutional settings, and
  • Congress would no longer have the authority to target vouchers to non-elderly people with disabilities in response to "elderly only" tenant selection policies in public and assisted housing.

NAMI is urging Congress to reject this shortsighted proposal. NAMI believes that there are alternative ways to increase local flexibility in the Section 8 program without harming the most vulnerable extremely low-income voucher recipients. In addition, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates make clear that the escalation of outlays under the program for contract renewals in recent years (the principal justification for this proposal) will be leveling off in FY 2005 and 2006. NAMI feels strongly that the Section 8 program needs to remain a viable affordable housing resource for extremely low-income people with disabilities.

For more information on this proposal, including the CCD Housing Task Force paper, click on:

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