Through HUD 's rental assistance programs housing is made available to five million people annually. HUD has three main programs: Housing Choice Voucher, public housing, and project-based Section 8. Payments under these programs in 2003 accounted for $28 billion, or approximately 75 percent of the agency 's total expenditures. HUD 's payments cover the difference between a housing unit 's monthly rental cost or the operating cost for public housing and a tenant 's payment, which is generally the equivalent of 30% of a tenant 's adjusted monthly income. Each year, the number of poor Americans eligible for assistance far exceeds the number of subsidized housing units or vouchers that are available.
HUD also subsidizes the development and operation of government-owned properties. In 2003 HUD 's public assistance program helped 1.2 million households and accounted for $7 billion. To be eligible, households must earn less than 80 percent of the local average income. The agency also subsidizes rents at multifamily housing developments under the Section 8 program. In 2003 HUD helped 1.6 million households under this program, with expenditures of $8 billion.
According to the Congressional report HUD could have helped many more people in 2003, but failed to do so as a result of administrative errors. Agency administrators inaccurately determined rent subsidies and made calculation errors by misapplying various income exclusions and deductions. The report noted that HUD administrators provided poor instructions to tenants applying for the various programs, which resulted in the inaccurate reporting of incomes. Consequently, many were denied housing assistance that were actually eligible, while others received subsidies despite their incomes being above the programs caps.
An analysis of the Congressional data shows that HUD paid an estimated $1.4 billion in improper rent subsidies in 2003 as a result of the agency 's errors. Since the overpayments exceeded the underpayments, HUD was not able to use approximately $377 million to assist low-income households. An additional 56,000 families could have been provided housing assistance. Instead, many were left homeless.
During President Bush 's first term, just as the reconstruction of Iraq was outsourced to Halliburton and other corporations, the administration began to outsource HUD 's supervision of Section 8 housing to independent contractors. The contractors are responsible for performing detailed annual reviews of local multifamily housing units and auditing the accuracy of housing subsidy calculations. However, the report found that HUD provided little oversight to the independent contractors, which resulted in additional program errors.
The Government Accountability Office strongly advised the Bush administration in 2001 that HUD needed to make significant improvements. Yet the administration ignored the agency 's problems. There can be little doubt that this was attributable to the administration 's exclusive focus on the war in Iraq. As a result, an increasing number of America 's poorest were left homeless.