Time to Review and Reduce Duplicative Housing Programs | Citizens Against Government Waste

Time to Review and Reduce Duplicative Housing Programs

The WasteWatcher

On October 22, 2020, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) released a report detailing duplicative and overlapping housing assistance programs.  The report highlights how these problems prevent the efficient delivery of assistance to those in need and provides solutions.  As noted by Chairman Enzi, “last year Washington spent over $50 billion on housing, guaranteed about $2 trillion in home loans and provided billions more through the tax code, yet more than half a million people in this country were homeless on a single night in 2019.”

The report cited “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.  Programs scattered across agencies, creating confusion and headaches for those seeking assistance.”

In August 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that there were 160 federal housing programs and activities across 20 agencies.  Overlap existed for products, services, and geographic areas served by programs within the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service (RHS), the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  All of these programs provide mortgage guarantee loans to homeowners, but better coordination of activities could provide improved assistance outcomes across the three agencies.   

The GAO recommended that “To enhance evaluation of coordination or consolidation of single-family programs, HUD, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), USDA, and VA should adopt a more rigorous approach for their task force that incorporates collaborative practices.  To further improve initiatives to consolidate and align requirements in multifamily programs, HUD, USDA, and Treasury should document their efforts in annual and strategic plans.  As part of these collaborative effort, these agencies also should identify specific programs for consolidation, including those requiring statutory changes.”   Since the GAO report was issued in 2012, the Senate report noted that there is no current figure for the programs currently available for housing assistance. 

Getting an accurate inventory of the various housing programs and consolidating as many as possible in a single agency, or certainly fewer than 20 agencies, will allow the programs to be managed more effectively and direct resources to those who are most in need while saving valuable taxpayer dollars.  The waste of money on maintaining these programs is completely unnecessary.  After the new list of programs is created, Congress should determine which are the most effective at delivering the most bang for the buck and eliminate those that don’t deliver to the American taxpayer.  The Senate report is a good start to fixing a critical problem.