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Congress Shouldn’t Delay Action on Housing Voucher Reform

CBPP, with a broad coalition of 45 national organizations and over 750 groups in all 50 states, today

the leadership of the Senate Banking Committee to take swift action on legislation to reform the “Section 8” Housing Choice Voucher program, the largest federal low-income housing assistance program.

More than a decade has passed since Congress last updated the rental assistance programs.  The House Financial Services subcommittee held a hearing in June on a draft of the Section 8 Savings Act.  The Senate Banking Committee has yet to act on a similar bill.

The state and local housing agencies that administer the voucher program need the savings and efficiencies that this bill would create as soon as possible.  The bill would help agencies stretch limited funds and minimize the risk of harsh cuts in assistance to needy families.

House and Senate stakeholders reached broad agreement on voucher reform legislation last December that would:

  • save more than $700 million over the next five years;
  • sharply reduce administrative burdens for state and local housing agencies and private owners;
  • establish a stable, efficient voucher funding system that would allow agencies to help more needy families with the funds they receive, control program costs, and reduce the risk that agencies will be forced to cut assistance in response to funding shortfalls;
  • simplify rules for setting tenant rent payments in the Section 8 and public housing programs; and
  • help develop and preserve affordable housing through broader use of “project-based” vouchers (which, unlike more widely used “tenant-based” vouchers, can be tied to a particular housing development).

The effort to enact these common-sense reforms began under the Republican-led House in 2006 and is now supported by the Democratic President.  A similar bill passed the House with a large, bipartisan majority in 2007.  A few of these changes are in the Senate version of the 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development released today, which is a positive step, but action by the Senate Banking Committee is still needed without further delay.