WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds housing initiatives, and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, introduced the Choice in Affordable Housing Act to improve the federal government’s largest rental assistance program. The bill would increase funding for and remove programmatic barriers in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program – often referred to as Section 8 vouchers – that will help attract and retain landlords. As a result, low-income families that use vouchers will have increased housing choices and improved access to high-opportunity neighborhoods.
“I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill with Senator Cramer that invests in and reforms a federal housing program that has successfully helped millions of Americans afford safe and decent housing in the private market,” said Senator Coons. “Housing is the foundation to a safe, healthy, and productive life, and by increasing the number of landlords that accept Housing Choice Vouchers, more Americans will have greater choices and opportunities in finding a home to build their foundation upon. This is a commonsense solution that would open doors for low-income families – an important step toward addressing housing affordability issues across the country.”
“Over the last year, housing uncertainty has reached unprecedented heights for millions of Americans, and there are ways Congress can act to strengthen existing housing programs without undue market interference,” said Senator Cramer. “The Choice in Affordable Housing Act seeks to increase landlord interest in affordable housing voucher programs by offering incentives and reducing burdensome bureaucratic guidance. It also increases funding for tribal programs and authorizes $500 million to create a Housing Partnership Fund named after former Fargo Mayor Herschel Lashkowitz, who dedicated much of his life to making affordable housing a reality for so many North Dakotans. I urge my colleagues to support our commonsense, bipartisan legislation.”
“Research shows that increasing families' access to high-opportunity areas is an important pathway to upward mobility,” said Raj Chetty, Director of Opportunity Insights and William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. “Children who grow up in opportunity rich neighborhoods are more likely to go to college and to earn more as adults. Making it easier for landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program is critical for increasing housing supply in opportunity rich areas and by way of this, supporting families' long-term success."
The Housing Choice Voucher program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps more than 5 million low-income people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, in a total of 2.3 million households afford safe and decent housing in the private rental market. More than two-thirds of those households are headed by a person of color. Administered by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), families that receive a voucher pay 30% of household income toward rent and utilities while the PHA pays the landlord the remaining rent. HCVs increase housing stability, reduce homelessness, and each year lift more than 1 million people out of poverty.
The HCV program relies on private-market landlords to accept vouchers. Because the number of participating landlords has declined in recent years, voucher holders experience a difficult housing search process and fewer options of where to live. To help reach the goal of increasing voucher holders’ housing choices and improving access to high-opportunity areas, the Choice in Affordable Housing Act would:
The bill is endorsed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), National Housing Law Project (NHLP), Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), Habitat for Humanity, Enterprise Community Partners, National Apartment Association (NAA), National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), National Association of Realtors (NAR), and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).