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Congress Should Promptly Pass Core Provisions in SESA

I testified today before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity on how some of the Section 8 Savings Act (SESA) self-sufficiency provisions are promising, though improvements are needed, and on the risks of sharply expanding HUD’s “Moving-to-Work” demonstration. Here is the opening of my testimony:

The SESA discussion draft dated October 5 contains important improvements to the Section 8 housing voucher program and other federal rental assistance programs that were also contained in a draft of the bill released in June 2011.

These well-crafted measures would:

  • ease administrative burdens,
  • make it easier for private owners to participate in the voucher program,
  • establish voucher funding rules that would help local housing agencies use funds efficiently,
  • and generate more than $700 million in federal savings.

SESA’s core provisions are urgently needed at a time when budgets are tight and housing needs are high, and it will be important that Congress move promptly to enact them.

This testimony focuses on several provisions of SESA that are designed to support self-sufficiency and on the Moving to Work Improvement, Expansion, and Permanency Act (MTWIEPA).  SESA’s self-sufficiency provisions should be improved in important ways, but they provide a promising framework.  MTWIEPA, on the other hand, is not well-designed to help families become self-sufficient and would likely lead to many fewer families receiving housing assistance and have other harmful effects unrelated to self-sufficiency.

As the testimony discusses, one problematic provision of SESA would allow rent increases for the lowest income housing assistance recipients.  You can read the full testimony here.