What Is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a U.S. government agency created in 1965 as part of President Johnson's Great Society agenda to expand America's welfare state. Its primary mission is improving affordable homeownership opportunities in order to support the housing market and homeownership in inner-city areas.

The HUD's programs are geared toward increasing safe and affordable rental options, reducing chronic homelessness, fighting housing discrimination by ensuring equal opportunity in the rental and purchase markets, and supporting vulnerable populations.

Key Takeaways

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a U.S. government agency that supports community development and homeownership.
  • The HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act and offers housing assistance through the Community Development Block Grant and the Housing Choice Voucher program.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.

Understanding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

The HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act and oversees the Community Development Block Grant and the Housing Choice Voucher program. It also supervises other programs to assist low-income and disadvantaged Americans with their housing needs and works with various government agencies and private organizations to reach its goals, including community nonprofits and faith-based groups.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the HUD became involved in disaster recovery in the Gulf Coast region.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. The HUD investigates any cases concerning the refusal to rent or sell a property, denying someone a dwelling, falsely stating that properties are unavailable, and imposing different terms or conditions based on any of the aforementioned discriminating conditions.

Types of HUD Assistance Programs

The HUD offers various assistance programs for those in need of housing financial assistance.

Grants

The Community Development Block Grant program allocates federal grant money to communities to develop neighborhoods that have decent, affordable housing. These grants typically aid low- and middle-income residents so they can find suitable living environments near employers, supermarkets, or public transportation. States, cities, towns, communities, and organizations apply for these block grants or for loan guarantees to aid in development projects.

Vouchers

The Housing Choice Voucher program, also called Section 8, allows low-income, disabled, or elderly citizens to choose a place to live regardless of whether the property exists as subsidized housing. The property must meet certain requirements, and applicants need to meet government standards to qualify.

Local public housing authorities determine a moderately priced housing option based on local real estate prices before deciding the benefits that families or individuals can receive. Families then seek out a housing unit for the number of people that will live in the house, duplex, or apartment.

A family that is issued a housing voucher must find housing where the owner agrees to rent under the program—and the rental unit must meet standards of health and safety that are determined by the PHA.

Local public housing agencies (PHAs) funded by the HUD administer the vouchers. The PHA pays the subsidy directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant and the tenant pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. The HUD states that to be eligible for the voucher program, the tenant's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the area.

Families can move from one housing unit to another because of income changes, job status, or the addition of family members. The voucher program attempts to allow for mobility without losing housing benefits. Beneficiaries with vouchers sign leases with property owners with this program. With subsidized housing, residents sign leases with property managers who oversee federally owned projects.