Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) reintroduced legislation to reform the Section 8 voucher program. H.R. 1209, introduced on March 17, would make many changes to HUD’s housing voucher program as well some changes to the public and assisted housing programs.
The Section 8 Voucher Reform Act of 2011 would, among other provisions:
- Institute a voucher funding distribution system to stabilize voucher funding for the 2,800 agencies that administer vouchers.
- Revise and improve how apartments and houses that are rented by voucher holders are inspected.
- Encourage public and assisted housing residents to increase their earned incomes while also simplifying the rent-setting process.
- Increase voucher holders’ ability to use vouchers in neighborhoods of their choosing by directing HUD to improve the portability of vouchers and to improve how Fair Market Rents are set.
- Prohibit the rescreening of public housing residents receiving vouchers as replacement housing.
- Expand, modify and rename HUD’s Moving to Work program into a new Housing Innovation Program.
- Authorize funding for 150,000 new tenant- and project-based vouchers in FY12.
- Place into statute performance assessments for the voucher program.
- Establish requirements for HUD and public housing agencies to guard against high rent burdens for voucher households.
The bill’s HIP provisions were negotiated in the 110th Congress and would make some improvements to the current MTW program, which NLIHC has criticized for its potential harm to residents. Among the provisions in SEVRA that would apply to HIP, but do not apply to the nation’s MTW demonstration sites, are:
- HUD could require HIP agencies to modify policies HUD finds harmful to families.
- PHAs would be prohibited from having tenant rents that are substantially higher than rents customarily paid by federally assisted tenants.
- HIP agencies would have to comply with HUD’s Part 964 requirements for resident councils and jurisdiction-wide resident councils.
- HIP waivers would be limited from straying beyond waivers sought in the agency’s HIP application to HUD.
- The HIP program would be evaluated.
Efforts to enact SEVRA legislation over the last several years have been unsuccessful. In its FY12 budget request, HUD is seeking several SEVRA provisions. These include allowing public housing agencies and owners to recertify incomes of fixed income households once every three years, instead of annually as is currently required; and raising the standard deduction for elderly and disabled families from $400 to $675 while raising the threshold for medical and handicapped assistance expense deductions, for the purpose of determining rents, from 3% to 10% of a family’s annual net income.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.