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Barbara Sard on Improving the Housing Voucher Program


Barbara Sard, the Center’s vice president for housing policy, testified at a hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity today in support of a draft bill that would improve the “Section 8” housing voucher program and streamline policies common to HUD’s other rental assistance programs.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Section 8 Savings Act (SESA) would take a series of important, timely steps to strengthen the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, the nation’s most widely used low-income housing program. . .

Taken together the bill’s provisions would stretch limited funds to assist significantly more families than would be possible under current law, a crucial improvement at a time when budgets are tight and poverty and homelessness are high… .  Some of the most important SESA provisions would:

  • Simplify rules for setting tenant rent payments, while continuing to cap rents at 30 percent of the tenant's income.
  • Streamline housing quality inspections to encourage private owners to participate in the program. . . .
  • Support work by modestly raising income targeting limits to admit more working-poor families and strengthening the Family Self-Sufficiency program, which offers housing assistance recipients job counseling and incentives to work and saveThese important reforms are expected to achieve considerable savings that could be used to extend assistance to more families or for deficit reduction. . . .  Congress could make the bill even stronger by adding a number of cost-free, broadly supported provisions from earlier versions of SEVRA [the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act].

Most importantly, Sard stated, SESA should establish a comprehensive, stable, and efficient voucher renewal funding policy, so that the annual appropriations bill merely sets the overall renewal funding level.  Supplementing SESA’s current language in this way would help and encourage housing agencies to stretch available funds to assist as many needy families as possible.

You can read the full testimony here.