Length of Housing Assistance Driven by Demographics and Housing Market Conditions

A report by Kirk McClure published by HUD, Length of Stay in Assisted Housing, examined the length of time that households receive assistance from one of six HUD programs for low income households, including public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), and Section 8 project-based rental assistance. These programs assisted approximately 5.1 million households in 2015. The typical household who exited one of these programs in 2015 had received assistance for six years, up from 4.4 years in 2000. This increase is largely the result of an increase in HUD-assisted elderly households, who receive assistance for a longer period of time, and housing market conditions.

While the average length of stay for HUD-assisted households who exited one of the programs in 2015 was six years, half of them exited after 3.6 years or fewer. HCV recipients, public housing residents, and Moving-to-Work (MTW) public housing residents who exited had an average stay of 6.6, 5.9, and 5.7 years, respectively. Half of those who exited, however, had a stay of 4.8 years or less for HCVs, 3 years or less in public housing, and 4 years or less in MTW public housing.

HUD-assisted elderly households who exited in 2015 had stayed in the program for an average of 9.1 years, compared to 5.1 years for disabled nonelderly households with no children, and 4.2 years for nonelderly nondisabled households with children. From 2000 to 2015, the average stay for those who exited HUD assistance rose by 1.5 years for elderly households, 1.2 to 1.7 years for people with disabilities (with and without children, respectively), and 1.1 years for nondisabled nonelderly families with children. During the same time, seniors and people with disabilities accounted for nearly all of the growth in HUD-assisted households. Elderly households accounted for 33% of HUD-assisted households in 2015, up from 31% in 2000; disabled households accounted for 23% of HUD-assisted households in 2015, up from 14% in 2000; and nonelderly nondisabled families with children accounted for 32% of HUD-assisted households in 2015, down from 43% in 2000.

The report found that income did not predict length of assistance. Households that stayed in assisted housing and those that exited had roughly similar incomes, between $13,000 and $14,000 per year. Surprisingly, those with incomes from wages typically had longer lengths of stay than those with incomes from other sources. The author suggests that wage income may not be stable and may be at risk of loss when emergencies occur, such when as a worker without paid sick leave has to take time off for an illness.

Housing market and neighborhood conditions had an impact on length of stay. Higher cost neighborhoods and higher cost metropolitan areas were associated with longer lengths of stay. Higher vacancy rates at the neighborhood and metropolitan level were associated with shorter lengths of stay. Higher neighborhood poverty was associated with shorter stays, indicating that HUD-assisted households living in higher poverty neighborhoods are likely to exit assistance sooner in order to leave high poverty areas.

The author concluded that national economic forces and rental housing trends have likely played a large role in longer lengths of stay in housing assistance programs. Incomes have not kept pace with increases in rents. From 2000 to 2015, the median gross rent increased by 54% while renter incomes increased by 31%. Lengths of stay in housing assistance programs will continue to increase as long as these trends continue.

Length of Stay in Assisted Housing is available at: http://bit.ly/2FgniLO