Several housing-related bills have been introduced in the early weeks of the 112th Congress.
H.R. 32, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2011. On January 5, Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), incoming chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, introduced H.R 32 to expand the definition of “homelessness.” The bill amends the definition under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to include children and youth who have been verified as homeless. Ms. Biggert introduced an identical bill in 2009, but it did not pass.
In 2009, McKinney Vento Act homeless assistance programs were reauthorized and the definition of homelessness was expanded through the HEARTH Act (see Memo, 5/22/09). Ms. Biggert’s bill continues the extensive debate on this issue.
H.R. 34, the Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2011. Ms. Biggert also introduced H.R 34, which is similar to legislation that passed the House in April 2009 (see Memo, 5/1/09). The bill puts into statute the existing method of funding HUD’s Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) program through administrative fees for housing choice vouchers. It provides one FSS coordinator for public housing agencies (PHAs) with more than 25 FSS participants, a second for those with more than 75 voucher participants, and a third for those with more than 125 participants.
Further, the bill requires HUD to establish and implement FSS performance measures, collect FSS program data, evaluate their effectiveness and report to Congress on its findings. It allows the HUD Secretary to incentivize innovative or successful FSS programs, as well. The FSS program allows PHAs to develop local strategies to help voucher families obtain employment that will lead to economic independence and self-sufficiency. It is voluntary for families.
H.R. 175, the Smart Housing in Disasters Act of 2011. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) introduced H.R. 175, which requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to track all housing units it provides to individuals and families affected by an emergency or major disaster. A plan must document the acquisition of housing units that can be recycled and reused for multiple emergencies or disasters, and include a process for FEMA to track each unit from the dates of acquisition through disposal. The same bill was introduced in the 111th Congress. The bill was referred to the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure and on Homeland Security.
H.R. 201, the Removing Reward for Section 8 Fraud Act of 2011. Representative Elton Gallegly (R-CA) reintroduced his legislation to prohibit rent decreases for HUD project-based assisted housing residents if their incomes decrease due to the loss of welfare assistance because of fraud or work requirement noncompliance. The 1998 Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act included a similar provision on public housing and voucher residents’ rents. Introduced on January 6, H.R. 201 was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
H.R. 233. On January 7, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced a bill from the 111th Congress that amends HUD’s “one strike” policy in public housing. The legislation provides that a tenant will not be evicted, be denied tenancy when applying for a unit, or have his or her tenancy terminated based solely on the individual’s familial relationship to a person convicted of a criminal offense. In addition, it requires PHAs deciding whether to evict, terminate or deny a tenant’s application to consider all mitigating circumstances and effects that the decision may have on the tenants and their families. The bill was referred to the House Financial Services Committee.