Bipartisan Breakthrough on Housing Bill
By Hilary Swab Gawrilow, Director of Federal Policy
Last week, I was asked to testify before the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act.
Introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetekemeyer (R-MO), H.R. 3700 encompasses changes to Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) core rental assistance programs that are supported by a broad range of housing industry stakeholders – including housing advocates and multifamily owner organizations. While there are still a few kinks to work out in the legislative language, this bill creates a rare opportunity to move many non-controversial changes forward that would make the programs more efficient, reduce administrative burdens for housing providers. and increase opportunities to create more affordable rental housing for vulnerable and struggling households.
The legislation includes changes to the Project-Based Voucher program that could increase the supply of supportive housing for homeless populations and better integrate those apartments into high-opportunity neighborhoods. H.R. 3700 increases the percent of vouchers a Public Housing Authority (PHA) can project-base by allowing an additional 10 percent of authorized vouchers to serve households experiencing homelessness or to create supportive housing for persons with disabilities or the elderly. Additionally, the modifications to the income mixing limitation included in the bill would allow a PHA to extend project-based assistance to more apartments in a property located in a high-cost area or cover more units in smaller properties. The Project-Based Voucher program is a critical tool for the development of supportive housing and creates opportunities for vulnerable households that would otherwise not have access to safe, affordable housing within their community.
The legislation also includes changes to Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers that are targeted for low-income youth with foster care involvement. Over this past year, I have had the opportunity to meet with young adults who have left foster care and learn about their experiences, and the housing and services they found most critical as they transitioned to adults. Additionally, I spoke to youth housing providers and housing agencies about the challenges serving transition age youth with targeted Youth-FUP vouchers. Because of these conversations, CSH was able to provide additional recommendations to better improve the utilization of these targeted vouchers by reducing lapses in housing for youth leaving care and better aligning the voucher with changes in foster care eligibility.
While the path to enactment for H.R. 3700 is still unfolding, it is clear Congressional staff from both sides of the aisle want to make important changes to HUD’s programs that benefit both housing providers and low-income households.