Mobility Demonstration Legislation Moves Forward

The House Financial Services Committee approved two bills related to affordable housing on May 22. The Committee unanimously passed the “Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act of 2018” (HR 5793), introduced by Representatives Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Emmanuel Cleaver (R-MO), while the “Transitional Housing for Recovery in Viable Environments Demonstration Program (THRIVE) Act” (HR 5735), introduced by Representative Andy Barr (R-KY), was passed by a 34-19 vote. NLIHC supports HR 5793 but has concerns with the THRIVE Act.

The Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act of 2018, if enacted, would further improve voucher mobility to help more households using housing vouchers move to communities of their choice, including those with access to jobs with decent pay, good schools, transportation, and healthcare. Through the demonstration, HUD and public housing agencies (PHAs) would be able to develop new models for improving voucher mobility and provide counseling to help HUD-assisted families move to areas of opportunity. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Senate companion bill (S. 2945) on May 24.

In contrast, several Committee members expressed concerns with the THRIVE Act and offered amendments reflecting NLIHC’s suggested improvements to the bill. Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) said that she opposed the bill because it would shift funding from 10,000 existing Housing Choice Vouchers to residential substance-use treatment programs that help people recover from opioid addiction or another substance abuse disorder. She noted that this would be unfair to families who had been waiting for housing assistance, and instead urged Congress to increase funding for affordable housing. Representative Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) offered an amendment that would authorize funding for 10,000 additional housing vouchers, but the amendment was rejected by a voice vote.

Ranking Member Waters also noted that while the THRIVE Act seeks to help people suffering from substance abuse disorders (SUDS), it fails to address the fact that many people with SUDs lose their housing assistance because of harsh eviction policies in federal programs. Ms. Waters offered a modified section of her bill, “The Fair Chance at Housing Act,” as an amendment to reform the eviction policies in federal housing assistance to ensure people with SUDs have the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The amendment would ensure fairer eviction procedures and ban one strike policies that allow tenants to lose their assistance for a single instance of illicit drug use. The Waters amendment was rejected by a voice vote.

Representative Charlie Christ (D-FL) voiced concern that by shifting vouchers away from public housing authorities to non-profit residential treatment programs could lead to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, who are more likely to experience homelessness, addiction, and denial of care. Mr. Christ offered an amendment that would require treatment providers in the demonstration to fully comply with the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including not discriminating against employees or program participants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Mr. Barr noted that the Committee did not have jurisdiction to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the amendment was voted down by a vote of 21-32.

To respond to earlier criticism of the bill, Mr. Barr offered an amendment to ensure service providers participating in the demonstration have experience administering housing vouchers. The amendment was adopted by voice vote.

For more information about the bills, see: