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The F4GI

Housing Pledge

Re-imagining the Housing Choice Voucher system with direct rental assistance.

The Housing Crisis

Our nation is experiencing an unprecedented housing crisis. As soaring prices for housing collide with a national shortage of 7.3 million affordable units, millions are left spending over half of their income to keep a roof over their heads. The majority of American renters report not having enough money left over to afford their basic needs – with renters having to reduce spending on essential goods like food, healthcare, and transportation.

As a consequence, more and more families across America are facing homelessness. As of 2023, that figure stood at over 650,000 people. This can lead to devastating consequences, such as cutting life expectancy by nearly 30 years

The current system: Housing Choice Vouchers – formerly Section 8

To ease this burden, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) largest assisted housing initiative –  the federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program – supports 2.3 million low-income families each year. 

Under the program, recipients pay 30% of their income towards rent. The remaining rent is then covered by HUD in the form of a “Housing Choice Voucher” (formerly known as Section 8 voucher) paid directly from local public housing authorities (PHAs) to landlords. Despite this program, only one in ten eligible households receive a voucher. That’s because the process of accessing and utilizing them is cumbersome. 

The waiting list for vouchers takes years. Why?

There is high demand for these vouchers and a “lottery system” to even get on the waitlist. The average time spent on the waitlist is two and a half years.  Only one in ten eligible households are selected from the waitlist to receive federal housing assistance.

Those who are selected off the waitlist have 60 – 240 days to use their voucher by securing a lease depending on the state. Otherwise, the voucher is revoked.

But… vouchers can’t always be used.

Utilizing Housing Vouchers

In 2019, HUD found that only 61% of households were able to successfully use their voucher to lease a unit and that more than 81,000 available housing choice vouchers could not be used. 39% of vouchers went unused because recipients couldn’t find housing.

This is partially due to the administrative burden the program poses on understaffed housing authorities, time constrained landlords, and voucher holders.

Here’s how it works.

Before a lease is even signed, landlords must coordinate with local housing authorities and voucher holders, complete all requisite forms, and wait for a housing inspection.

Landlords are not given a time window until the day of the inspection. The unit must be vacant for the inspection to occur during months that could be spent collecting rent. One study of landlords who once accepted vouchers and later stopped, found that 50% cited inspections and 40% cited paperwork and bureaucracy as the primary reason. The many requirements and waiting periods often leads landlords to drop out of the program entirely. Over 50,000 landlords have left the HCV program in the past decade.

These barriers make it more burdensome for households to use (and landlords to accept) a voucher than it is to secure a lease on the private market due to time consuming housing inspections, a gluttony of paperwork, and eligibility requirements that can amount to invasion of privacy. As things stand, landlords’ overall denial rate for voucher holders in cities is 60%.

HUD is exploring the impact of replacing vouchers with direct, recurring cash transfers to renters. Renters could then send one check for 100% of the rent to the landlord, remove the requirement for invasive housing inspections, and reduce the impact of landlord discrimination. Providing cash in lieu of housing vouchers could relieve friction for poor families, landlords and local public housing authorities.

The Housing Pledge

The Fund for Guaranteed Income’s Housing Pledge aims to re-imagine the housing bureaucracy and utilize the impact direct cash payments can have on improving the housing choice voucher system. Our goal is to drastically improve the program’s success rate by reducing search times and ensuring renters have access to higher quality housing options in better locations.

Pilot objectives

The pledge will deliver direct cash in lieu of vouchers once a household has been selected off the HCV waitlist. The pilot aims to:


Support households’ ability to search for a unit and secure a lease.


Reduce the time spent on paperwork to secure a lease via the voucher system.


Establish a simpler and more streamlined lease agreement process to improve the HCV administration through the acceptance of cash payments.

The housing pledge is designed to provide fiscal and apartment search support while participants find an appropriate unit, giving households the resources they need to actually use their housing subsidy. Subsequently, the pledge can increase landlord participation by simplifying the HCV enrollment process and having it mirror the private renters’ market. 

This allows landlords to enjoy the unique benefits of renting to a HCV voucher holder, who are stable tenants (staying in the same unit on average 8 to 9 years), pay rent on time, and are financially backed for the full rent amount by the local PHA should their income change. 

How it works

Pilot participants will be selected from households currently on the waitlist to receive a housing choice voucher. Instead of providing 70% of voucher holders’ rent to the landlords, the housing pledge will provide cash directly to participants who can then pay their landlords the full rent themselves. 

Participants will also have access to additional support to overcome typical barriers faced during their apartment search. This approach aims to eliminate the need for invasive housing inspections and reduce landlord discrimination.  It would also provide families with more freedom to choose housing in neighborhoods that best suit their needs, potentially leading to greater stability and opportunity.

Pilot partners

F4GI has built a coalition of program and evaluation partners committed to the vision of Direct Rental Assistance. Our pilot team is working closely with the Housing and Urban Development administration to ensure that the DRA pilot best supports the greater mission of more effective housing assistance programs, regardless of the form they take.

A research study is being designed to:

  • Measure household’s ability to use DRA to successfully lease a unit
  • Understand household unit and neighborhood satisfaction with units leased under DRA
  • Uncover barriers within the administrative process that prevent households from using housing assistance
  • Understand landlord reluctance to accept housing assisted households
  • Connect improved housing environment to improvements in households material, physical and psychological well-being

Long-term vision: Re-imagining the administration of HCV

Re-imagining the administration of the HCV program can have the expected shifts in the system by reducing the cost of participation for households, prospective landlords, and local PHAs. Direct cash payments open a pathway to


Increase landlord participation in the HCV program.


Increase opportunities for families to find housing in neighborhoods of their choice.


Bolster mental health, physical health, material well-being, and wealth building opportunities by providing participants a better housing environment.

The current system creates a strain on all parties involved. Local Public Housing Authorities must determine household eligibility, verify household income, and conduct further evaluations before a voucher holder is able to secure a lease. On average, this process takes 13.8 hours per voucher per year. HUD, which has seen staffing levels drop by 49% since 1991, is severely understaffed to carry out essential activities.  Staffing shortages are also impacting local housing authorities, especially in large metro areas like New York and Los Angeles.

Our long term vision is to find ways to supplement, not replace, the existing social safety net as a tool for protecting livelihoods and enabling economic and racial justice, while also providing insights that are applicable to improve the administration of the HCV Section 8 voucher system.

Next Steps

Currently, the pilot team is in conversations with several Public Housing Authorities in a variety of cities and counties to determine the ideal site(s) for the pilot. 

To learn more or to get involved, email: