Waiting Lists Open In Place of More Housing Becoming Available
Started around a hundred years ago by the federal government, Section 8 is a housing assistance program that falls under the control of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On paper, Section 8 seems ideal for America's social safety net. It is a program that offers rental assistance or the full cost of rent for Americans who are too poor to afford housing or who have fallen on hard times. In practice, however, Section 8 is something that operates completely differently, and it's in real danger of defaulting entirely. If you or anyone you know is currently on Section 8 and need it, then it's a good thing they have it, because these days all that happens with Section 8 in most states is that people get placed on waiting lists instead of being placed in actually houses.
This all started to unravel for Section 8 in the early 1970s. Fresh off of the Civil Rights Movement, millions of African Americans were now in the housing market with the rest of America. Though because they were demonstrably disadvantaged due to segregation laws, they did not have the available funds and credit that so many other Americans had. The federal government decided that they would build housing tenements for many American black citizens, known as "housing projects." Though instead of creating a new, separate program for this, the government tied this into Section 8. As a result, Section 8 has been dominated by African American needs for decades, and it has never been expanded and has never really grown.
In the past decade, however, even black Americans are losing out on section 8 due to the fact that the federal government has stood by while some states give all of their section 8 resources to illegal immigrants coming in from south of the border. People who don't have official IDs or Social Security numbers are being given open preference in Section 8 housing in states like California and New York.
Whether you believe this is just and right or not isn't the point. The point is that the government wants to use this one lone program for what they call "restorative" and "social justice" for multiple different groups, instead of creating new programs or even expanding the lone existing program. Joe Biden, as one of his first moves as President, slashed HUD's budget exactly in half compared to what Donald Trump signed into the budget for them. This is after the ravishes of COVID in 2020, mind you, so America was dealing with more homeless and millions more who needed Section 8.
Needy people started to line up for Section 8, only to be told that there's a waiting list. That's basically all Section 8 is now, a giant waiting list. For instance, the Butte County Housing Authority Board Commission rallied together to give some big, overwhelming press conference about great housing news. Do you know what this news was? They were starting a new Section 8 waiting list in January of 2023. Imagine that; imagine that was any other program. Imagine food stamps, for instance, being so taxed and over-burdened that they couldn't feed anyone, so instead just placed hungry people on a waiting list. The country couldn't survive something like that, and some predict it might not survive the crisis of the absence of affordable housing.
It's Hard to Succeed With Only A Program
It really makes no sense why Section 8 is still the only real housing assistance program offered by the federal government. When it comes to foreign aid, the government quite literally has over 100 programs that are fully funded every single year, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Do you know what HUD's budget is? $234 billion, to control the entire department (8 departments), with around $47 billion of that money going to Section 8. That's down $8.6 billion from 2021 when Biden first slashed it, and down over $50 billion from what Trump gave them.
California, New York, Chicago, Oregon, Washington State; the thing all of these states have in common is that they're expanding the Section 8 waiting list but aren't taking any measures at all to build or renovate new homes for people. Many speculate that it is strictly a budget issue, claiming HUD just doesn't have enough money to operate its 8 separate departments much less its flagship housing assistance program.
America's situation will only worsen until someone figures out how to fix Section 8 and offer more housing to more Americans.