Policy Position Paper

President’s FY 2005 Budget Dismantles Housing Program and
Severely Cuts Housing Assistance for Low-Income Families


More about
Section 8 Housing Vouchers

Fact Sheet: About Section 8 Funding and the Bush Administration's "Flexible Voucher Program" (available in PDF format)



The ELCA opposes the President’s budget proposal to cut Section 8 voucher funding by about $1.5 billion below last year, and block grant the voucher program to state and local housing authorities.

The ELCA supports the administration providing adequate funding to eligible low income households who have a need for housing assistance.

Reasons for Position:

         The changes:

• Would likely cut 250,000 families from the program in 2005, and 800,000 (40% of program) by 2009, or

• Charge higher rents to low-income families who already struggle to make ends meet, or

• Transfer vouchers from poorer families to higher-income families, or a combination of these three alternatives.

• Would undermine the fundamental goal of the Section 8 program, which is to provide access to affordable, decent housing for people who otherwise would struggle to secure it, including low-income working families with children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.

ELCA Policy Base:

(All policy positions taken by the ELCA are based on the Social Statements previously passed by the voting members of the Churchwide Assembly or other governing documents of the ELCA.)

The “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All” social statement (adopted by more than two-thirds majority vote—872-124 in 1999) states:

         • “We are called to be stewards of what God has given for the sake of all.”

• “Government is intended to serve God’s purposes by limiting or countering narrow economic interests and promoting the common good.”

• “God has created a world of sufficiency for all…the problem is not the lack of resources, but how they are shared, distributed, and made accessible within society.”

• “Sufficiency means adequate access to income and other resources that enable people to meet their basic needs, including nutrition, clothing, housing…”

• “Those who are rich and those who are poor are called into relationships of generosity from which each can benefit.”

The “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All” social statement calls for:

• “government to provide adequate income assistance and related services for citizens, documented immigrants, and refugees who are unable to provide for their livelihood through employment;”

• “adequate, consistent public funding for the various low-income services non-profit organizations provide for the common good of all;”

• “scrutiny to ensure that new ways of providing low-income people with assistance and services (such as through the private sector) do not sacrifice the most vulnerable for the sake of economic efficiency and profit;”

The ELCA message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” (adopted by ELCA Church Council on October 22, 1990) states:

• “Christians who have shelter are called to care, called to walk with homeless people in their struggle for a more fulfilling life and for adequate, affordable, and sustainable housing.”

• “Walking with people who are homeless includes the responsibility to prevent homelessness.”

• “We are called to be aware of and concerned for people in our midst who are vulnerable to losing their housing.”


The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, is one of the major federal programs intended to bridge the gap between the cost of housing and the incomes of low wage earners and people on limited fixed incomes.  Section 8 housing vouchers and rental certificates were established by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.  In 1998, the voucher and certificate programs were merged into the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Vouchers are not an entitlement and only a small percentage of eligible applicants receive them—most are put on a waiting list when they apply.

Recipients may select any housing with rent at or below the “fair market rent” set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), if the owner agrees to accept the voucher as payment. Fair market rent is set at the 40th percentile rent, the dollar amount below which 40 percent of the standard-quality rental housing units are rented.  For example, the fair market rent in Pittsburgh, PA for a one-bedroom apartment is $511.  The family pays 30 percent of its income toward rent and utilities, with the voucher covering the remaining rent.  Families that select housing that costs more than the fair market rent must pay the difference.

About 2.05 million vouchers are presently being utilized by households (National Low Income Housing Coalition).  However, only 34% of eligible low-income households are currently served by assisted housing programs (The State of the Nation’s Housing 2003).

For further information, contact Lauren Caywood  (lauren_caywood@elca.org) or Kay Bengston  (kay_bengston@elca.org), or call (202) 783-7507.

To see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' analysis of the proposal, see: http://www.cbpp.org/2-12-04hous.htm


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