CHN: Improvements to Housing Assistance Programs Get Unanimous Support in the House

In a win for low-income advocates and a rare act of overwhelming bipartisanship, the House on February 2 unanimously passed (427-0) a bill that will make federal housing assistance programs more efficient and effective, improving lives for low-income families. The Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act (H.R. 3700) will update and streamline rental assistance programs to help expand access to higher-opportunity areas, address homelessness, support renovation of public housing, strengthen work incentive, ease administrative burdens and trim program costs.
The bill improves low-income families’ access to areas with low poverty and crime and high-performing schools by enabling state and local housing agencies to use project-based vouchers where it is difficult to use tenant-based vouchers. While most able-bodied recipients of rental assistance already work, the bill improves work incentives by delaying rent increases for families when their earnings rise. It strengthens voucher assistance for former foster children, who face a high risk of homelessness. An amendment from Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), which passed by voice vote, will direct the Secretaries of HUD and the Department of Labor to produce an annual report on strategies to strengthen family economic empowerment.

In addition to providing common-sense changes to public housing, housing choice vouchers and project-based rental assistance that will improve residents’ quality of life, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would reduce program costs by $311 million over five years. This savings means that more families could be helped with the existing level of funding.

The unanimous vote in the House gives the bill strong momentum going into the Senate, though no timeline for Senate action has been announced. If the Senate also passes the bill, it will be the first time a major piece of authorizing legislation affecting vouchers and public housing is enacted since 1998.

For more information on H.R. 3700, see this resource page from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and these resources from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Housing and Homelessness