Federal housing assistance programs began with the implementation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, enacted during the Great Depression in 1933. The program encouraged the construction of low-income housing by offering low-interest loans to public and private contractors willing to build. However, these “projects,” weren’t able to equalize the poor and ended up segregating them into specific areas of the city.
Subsidy programs were created by the federal government in the 1960’s and 1970’s to increase construction of low-income housing and assist families with their rent payments. The Leased Housing Act, established in 1965, was much more structured than today’s Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program. Eligible participants were placed on a waiting list and then into pre-determined housing units and the family’s rent payment was determined. The housing authority (Public Housing Agency) was then responsible for paying the difference between that rent price and the market price for similar housing.
Currently, the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program helps about 2 million families per year afford housing. Families are now allowed to choose any housing that meets program Housing Quality Standards and are not limited to low-income housing projects. The program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered on the local level by roughly 2,400 Public Housing Agencies.