CHN: House Set To Consider Section 8 Appropriations
This week the House is scheduled to respond to the Bush administration’s FY 2005 budget proposal that slashes funding for the Section 8 voucher rental assistance program. The Appropriations Subcommittee is planning to mark up the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill on Tuesday, July 20 with the full House Appropriations committee following on Friday, July 23. This bill funds all of the federal government’s housing programs.
The Administration’s FY 2005 budget proposal underfunds the Section 8 rental assistance program by $1.6 billion, which could leave 150,000 families, including 280,000 children, without a place to live. It also calls for replacing the Section 8 voucher program with the Flexible Voucher Program. This would give local housing authorities the ability to charge higher rents and to select higher income families to receive a Section 8 voucher. Currently three-fourths of the vouchers must go to families at or below 30 percent of area median income.
The Senate does not appear likely to mark up the VA-HUD appropriations bill before September, at which point it would most likely be included in a large omnibus appropriations bill. There has been consistent, if not forceful, bipartisan support of the Section 8 program over the last few years during the time the Bush Administration has proposed drastic cuts and detrimental policy changes. Senator Bond, Chairman of the Senate VA, HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, has been a consistent supporter of the program and has remained neutral on the administration’s proposals.
If Congress underfunds Section 8 and adopts elements of the Flexible Voucher Program, housing authorities would be left with limited options. They could: reduce the number of families assisted; raise tenant rents; require families to rent even lower-cost apartments; or shift vouchers from needier families to those with higher incomes who could pay a greater portion of the rent, thus reducing the cost of the Section 8 program. No matter what option they choose, the changes will hurt a large number of families and children.