Impacting Communities: How Technology Makes it Easier to Accept Housing Choice Vouchers

Last modified on June 14th, 2022
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While affordable housing (or the lack thereof) has always been an important topic, in the last few years, the conversation has grown into a larger, more pressing issue: there just isn’t enough. Despite housing being a fundamental right, there isn’t a state within the U.S. that has not experienced an increased shortage of housing for the lowest-income renters. 

While estimates vary, Moody’s Analytics predicts that the shortfall in the housing supply is more than 1.5 million homes nationwide. In addition to the severe housing supply issue, rent rose by 11.3% nationally last year in some cities due to the pandemic and continues to rise. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) also reports that 70% of extremely low-income households are severely cost-burdened, which means they are spending more than half of their income on housing, with the remaining going toward essentials such as groceries, healthcare, and childcare. Housing affordability will always remain a complex issue, driven by factors including income levels, land and natural resource availability, population growth, and a housing supply-demand imbalance. Two initiatives to help lift this burden are more affordable housing programs and housing-related vouchers.

A Brief History of Affordable Housing 

Affordable housing typically refers to apartment homes or other multifamily rental projects priced significantly below conventional market models. The programs and agencies that we know of today were created to help alleviate some of the housing hardships caused by the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Laws such as the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 sought to address the housing needs of low-income people through public housing, and the Fair Housing Act protected minorities or underrepresented groups from discrimination in renting or buying housing because of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

In the early 1950s and 1960s, the cost of operating public housing began to overshadow the revenue that was made in rent, which in turn caused a growing number of new programs and tax incentives for private developers to create and operate affordable housing units. A decade later, Section 8 housing was introduced. However, since its creation in 1974, no new federal programs have been adopted to further meet the needs of people with the greatest housing affordability burdens within the rental housing space.

Why Housing Vouchers Matter

Created in 1974 and federally funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Housing Choice Voucher (HVC) program remains the nation’s largest source of rental housing assistance, serving more than 5 million people. This program assists low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled in affording decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Research shows that housing vouchers are highly effective at reducing homelessness and housing instability and improving other outcomes for families and children. They are crucial to giving people with lower incomes greater choice about where they live and also make a major contribution to lifting them out of poverty. 

However, the NLIHC reports that federal housing assistance only serves one quarter of those who qualify for it. Over 2.2 million households use HVCs to afford housing. Breaking down the numbers even further, 11% of voucher recipients are seniors, 23% are disabled, and 70% are families with children. An analysis of HUD data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that families have spent, on average, close to two and a half years on HCV waitlists, with the longest time being up to 8 years.

While issuing more vouchers expands housing opportunities for low-income households, many families struggle to find housing that accepts vouchers. Property owners have also complained about the regulatory and bureaucratic burden and the lack of incentives that come with accepting HCVs. That’s why, in March 2022, H.R. 6880 — the Choice in Affordable Housing Act — was introduced to Congress to increase the number of owners participating in this program. The goal of this bill is to authorize and direct additional resources to attract and retain rental housing providers in the HCV program. According to an article by the National Multifamily Housing Council, those who support this bill believe that it will boost the program by “stabilizing funding, encouraging greater voluntary participation by housing providers, and ultimately improving outcomes for low- and moderate-income households.”

The Role You Play in Affordable Housing

At AppFolio, we recognize the role our customers play in providing housing. Our company value of “We do the right thing; it’s good for business” isn’t just a phrase — it’s who we are as a technology partner. We want to enable our customers to create a world where applying for, living in, and managing affordable housing feels effortless. Those who currently manage affordable housing units are taking an active role in giving back to their communities and creating housing stability for families, and we will continue to invest in technology that supports aspects of affordable housing functionality.

Property management companies are in a position to make a huge impact in affordable housing, and we know that adopting the right technology to be able to accept HCVs successfully will make the biggest impact. We are excited to see our customers thrive in this space and take advantage of the benefits of our latest HCV enhancement. Within AppFolio Property Manager, entering subsidy rent receipts for residents with vouchers is now easier and faster. Our streamlined user interface for recording subsidized rent payments allows you to create multiple subsidy rent receipts for multiple properties in one go, saving time and improving accuracy. This new tool can save your business an average of 2.5 minutes per unit a month, giving you more time to focus on what matters. By harnessing the power of technology, you and your team can focus on creating a seamless and better level of service for all.

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