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During a roundtable to examine federal housing assistance programs today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said the federal government’s current approach to housing assistance is falling short and that Congress should initiate a review and take steps to improve this system. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found housing assistance is fragmented across 160 programs and activities, with significant areas of duplication and overlap.

“With programs scattered across multiple federal agencies, the system leads to overlap and waste and actually limits resources that should be going to those in need,” Chairman Enzi said. “We should undertake a serious, bipartisan review to find improvements to the system, and identify solutions and gather ideas about reform. This will allow these programs to work better for those who truly need them.”

Enzi noted that the federal government spends more than $50 billion per year on low-income housing assistance programs, guarantees $2 trillion in home loans, and provides billions more in assistance through the tax code.  With half a million people homeless and given the significant amount we spend, he said there are still years-long waiting lists for public housing. Studies have shown that public housing and project-based programs can trap families in high-poverty neighborhoods, with significant long-term consequences for their health and well-being.  And programs are scattered across agencies, creating confusion and significant challenges for those seeking assistance. 

“The time is now for Congress to undertake a thorough review of the federal housing programs and seeing what works, and what doesn’t, so that we can better determine what form those measures should take,” said Chairman Enzi.