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The Emergency Housing Voucher Program: Exploring Its Challenges & Successes

In 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act provided federal funding for 70,000 Emergency Housing Vouchers to shelter those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. By February of 2023, however, only 75% of vouchers had yet to be used to lease housing nationally and only 63% in California. On May 17, UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation hosted a panel discussion, “Exploring Challenges and Successes of the Emergency Housing Voucher Program: Insights from Public Housing Authorities.”

Moderated by Joy Moses, Vice President of Research and Evidence at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the panelists included Mary-Margaret Spikes Lemons, President of Fort Worth, Texas Housing Solutions; Robin Walls, Executive Director/CEO of the King County, Washington Housing Authority; and Emilio Salas, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Development Authority.

In the webinar, Salas spoke of the unique challenges to Los Angeles’ implementation of the EHV program, including the fact that it has the largest unsheltered population in the United States, its complex housing ecosystem and extremely limited housing inventory. Salas also shared that his agency had advantages, however, such as its long relationships with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and other Coordination of Care agencies, which facilitated fulfilling the EHV program requirements.

Panelists discussed how and why they prioritized different populations for the vouchers, how their housing supply impacted distribution, and the ongoing necessity of combatting source of income discrimination to encourage landlord participation in voucher programs. They also made recommendations such as prioritizing more funding for staff and stronger interjurisdictional agreements, which would especially benefit Los Angeles. The Terner Center hopes that the panelists’ strategies can be implemented by other jurisdictions looking to increase utilization of EHVs.

Watch the panel discussion and view its slide deck here.

Read the Terner Center’s commentary, “Using Emergency Housing Vouchers to Address Homelessness,” here.


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