On March 6, Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced H.R. 4115, the “Section 8 Reform, Responsibility, and Accountability Act of 2012.” The bill would prohibit Section 8 tenant-based or project-based assistance for any family that includes an individual who, at any time, was convicted of a felony under state or federal law, or is unlawfully present in the United States. The bill would also establish five-year time limits for receipt of Section 8 tenant-based or project-based assistance. The bill would also establish work requirements for Section 8 tenant-based and project-based households
Current statute requires public housing agencies (PHAs) to establish bans on admission to public housing and voucher programs for people who have been convicted of methamphetamine production on the premises of federally funded housing and people who are subject to lifetime registration requirements under state sex offender registration programs. PHAs must also establish standards to prohibit admission by people who are currently using illegal drugs, regardless of whether they have been convicted of any drug related offense. And, if a household member has been evicted from assisted housing for drug-related criminal activity, PHAs must ban the individual for three years from the date of eviction. Here, the PHA can consider mitigating circumstances. The category of people charged with a felony under state of federal law is much broader than those who fall into the currently prohibited groups of people.
Regarding people “unlawfully present” in the United States, current law states that aliens, unless they are qualified aliens, are not eligible for public and assisted housing. A qualified alien includes legal permanent residents, refugees and asylees. H.R. 4115 would prohibit Section 8 assistance for any family that includes someone who is unlawfully present. This differs from current law, where housing assistance is prorated for families in which at least one member is an qualified alien. Such families receive assistance based on the proportion of nonqualified aliens in their households. This bill would remove assistance for the entire family and do away with prorated assistance.
Time limits are not allowed in HUD’s rental assistance programs today, except where they have been adopted by PHAs participating in HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration. The bill’s time limits apply to any household “that includes a family member who has previously been provided [Section 8 tenant- or project-based] assistance for 60 months (whether or not consecutive) or longer.” Any months during which an individual family member was elderly or disabled must be disregarded by the PHA for purposes of counting months assisted. The time limit provisions would go into effect two years after the bill’s enactment, but up to 36 months of assistance prior to the effective date would be counted toward households’ time limits.
The bill would also establish work requirements for Section 8 tenant- and project-based households. Currently, only voucher holders in agencies participating in the Moving to Work demonstration may be subject to work requirements as a condition of receiving housing assistance. In H.R. 4115, every household member who is 18 years of age or older must perform not fewer than 20 hours of work activities per week. Exemptions are provided for individual family members who are 62 years or older, or who are blind or disabled “and who are unable to comply with this section,” or who are primary caretakers of such an individual. Others excluded are those that meet certain other work requirement standards, or their associated exemptions, and people who are the single custodial parent of a child younger than six years old and can demonstrate they cannot obtain childcare.
The bill would also impose project-based Section 8 policies related to termination of assistance and termination of tenancy to the tenant-based Section 8 program. The policies in the project-based occupancy handbook relate to requirements and procedures regarding when and how a tenant’s assistance must be terminated, the tenant’s responsibilities when the tenant wishes to terminate tenancy, and the allowable circumstances for terminating tenancy and the requirements and procedures that owners must follow to terminate a tenant’s residency.
The bill would also establish a federal preference for veterans at each PHA; any other PHA preference for admission would be subordinate to the preference for veterans.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.