A revised draft of the voucher reform bill was released by Republican staff of the House Financial Services Committee on January 13. The new draft bill, now called the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act (AHSSIA), could be taken up by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity in early February. The draft bill makes a number of changes to the previous draft, which was released in October (see Memo, 10/7/11).
The new draft bill incorporates Representative Gary Miller’s (R-CA) draft Moving to Work (MTW) Improvement, Expansion, and Permanency Act, which was also circulated in October. This legislation would allow the HUD Secretary to provide the broad flexibilities of the MTW demonstration to an unlimited number of public housing agencies and make MTW permanent. NLIHC has long opposed MTW expansion because the existing program has not been evaluated, does not require deep income targeting, does not require that rents be affordable under the Brooke standard to each household, and allows for the blending of public housing and voucher funds such that fewer households are or will be served. NLIHC is hopeful that an agreement on Moving to Work can be reached, so that the bill can be supported by a broader range of housing advocates.
The new bill makes some significant changes to the previous version’s minimum rent increase provisions, which NLIHC opposes. The new draft bill would direct the HUD Secretary to set monthly minimum rents for public housing residents, voucher holders and project-based Section 8 tenants of not less than $69.45 and then would allow the Secretary to index this minimum rent floor to inflation.
There is no upper limit to a minimum rent the Secretary could set. The draft language would allow PHAs to determine the actual minimum rent, presumably above the Secretary’s minimum rent. Project-based owners would also be able to set minimum rents above whatever minimum rent is set by the Secretary, with the Secretary’s approval. The previous draft authorized PHAs to set minimum rents to the greater of $75 or 12% of Fair Market Rent. This bill removes these provisions, replacing them with a floor minimum rent of $69.45 that could be increased by the PHA or private owner. NLIHC is trying to determine if the draft bill text is indeed what Subcommittee Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL) intends or if there were errors in the drafting process. As presented, NLIHC would oppose the new draft’s language on minimum rents.
The new bill does include important project-based voucher provisions sought by NLIHC and many other advocates. These include the ability to base the percentage of vouchers that could be project-based (20%) on the number of a PHA’s authorized vouchers rather than on a PHA’s authorized voucher funding. The draft bill would also allow for an additional 5% of an agency’s vouchers to be project-based to provide units that house individuals and families that are homeless, who are veterans, that provide supportive housing to persons with disabilities, or that are located in areas where vouchers are difficult to use. The bill would also allow for enhanced vouchers to be converted to project-based vouchers for the purposes of preserving affordable housing.
Another new section in the draft bill would allow for full fungibility between the public housing capital and operating funds.
The new draft bill includes two other demonstrations intended to test PHA policies that promote economic independence. One is called a rent reform demonstration and the other is called a “research demonstration to evaluate options for taking economic security initiatives to scale in subsidized housing.” Both demonstrations would give an unspecified number of PHAs the ability to waive the Brooke standard that tenants pay no more than 30% of their income for rent in order to evaluate different policies’ effects on resident income, employment, and other measures. The latter would allow imposition of work requirements or “other clusters of interventions.” These demonstrations seem to duplicate what many existing MTW PHAs already say they are testing and thus, may be an unnecessary expansion of PHAs’ latitude to not to insure that each household has a rent that is affordable.
Unlike the October version of the bill, the latest does not require PHAs to operate some compendium of supportive services in order to take advantage of the bill’s income and rent determination simplifications. The new bill would make a number of improvements to the Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program, including merging the public housing and voucher FSS programs and expanding the reach of the FSS program to project-based Section 8 households.
The draft bill is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/AHA_Draft_Bill_2012.pdf
A one-page summary provided by the Subcommittee staff is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/AHA_Summary_2012.pdf
A section-by-section summary provided by the Subcommittee staff is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/AHA_sbs_2012.pdf