Congress is returning from its Memorial Day recess and state and district work period to face work on a range of affordable housing policy issues. The following is an overview of the prospects for action on legislation that readers have followed in previous editions of Memo.
The large housing reform bill—previously called SEVRA (the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act) and SESA (the Section 8 Savings Act)—is now called the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Act (AHSSIA) in its draft House incarnation. The House Committee on Financial Services may vote on the measure in June.
The major issue that previously has stalled the bill continues: whether, and how, to expand the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration program (see related article in Memo). The most recent version of AHSSIA, circulated on April 13, incorporates broad stakeholder agreement on MTW expansion.
The draft bill would create a “basic” MTW for high-capacity public housing agencies administering up to 500,000 total public housing and voucher units and an “enhanced” MTW for up to 25 of the PHAs participating in the basic one. Generally, all basic and enhanced MTW agencies must meet current income targeting, resident rights and portability requirements, and they would be allowed to merge voucher and public housing funding and streamline rent setting. Enhanced agencies would be able to test policies that impose time limits, work requirements and substantial rent setting changes, all under rigorous evaluation protocols.
With limited exceptions approved by HUD, the bill would require all MTW agencies to serve substantially the same number of households, and it includes detailed definitions of households that can be counted toward an MTW agency’s “substantially the same” requirement. In this scenario, households count as assisted if they: (1) meet current income targeting requirements and pay no more than 28% of their gross income for rent; (2) pay no more than the agency’s average rent burden prior to its MTW status; or (3) pay no more than other families that non-MTW housing agencies serve in the metropolitan area or county.
The April 13 version reflects stakeholder discussion and differs from expansion language included in an earlier version of AHSSIA. That language would allow all housing agencies into an MTW program very similar to the one that HUD currently operates.
NLIHC and other organizations participating in the MTW stakeholder group are hopeful, but not assured, that the stakeholder agreement on MTW expansion will survive mark up. But, the agreement represents a delicate balance of MTW expansion, evaluation and protections for current and future residents. Any significant change could alter the groups’ support for the agreement, and the bill as a whole.
Overall, the bill includes provisions to generate more than $700 million in savings and major programmatic improvements. It would establish firm voucher renewal funding guidelines; make several enhancements to the project-basing of vouchers; simplify rent setting and income determination policies for residents, housing agencies and owners while maintaining the Brooke rent affordability standard; improve access to private apartments by people with disabilities; and make improvements to HUD’s Family Self Sufficiency program.
The bill also includes an increase to monthly minimum rents. To soften its certain and adverse impact on lowest income households, it would allow housing agencies and owners to opt out of the increases for good cause and greatly expand the efficacy and scope of existing hardship exemptions from minimum rent policies.
The Senate has yet to act on a housing reform bill during the 112th Congress, but Senate staff report that the Senate may proceed with its own housing reform bill following House consideration.
Appropriators find the cost savings from AHSSIA reforms to be attractive. In S. 2322, the Senate Committee on Appropriations provides FY13 funding for HUD, and includes several of AHSSIA’s cost-saving provisions. They include a revised definition of “extremely low income,” a new policy on minimum flat rent levels and a modification of inspection processes. Yet momentum for passing policy reforms that do not result in cost savings, like project-based voucher improvements, diminishes if only these and other cost-saving provisions are included in the final FY13 bill.
Click here for NLIHC’s two-pager on AHSSIA.
Click here for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' side-by-side comparing current housing law, the last Congress’s SEVRA and AHSSIA.
Click here to read NLIHC’s June 2011 testimony on SESA.
Click here to read NLIHC’s October 2011 testimony on AHSSIA.