By a unanimous vote of 427 to 0, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a broad housing assistance reform bill on February 2. During floor consideration of H.R. 3700, several positive amendments were approved without opposition. Consideration of the bill now moves to the Senate.
House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act” on October 7, 2015 (see Memo, 10/13/2015). After the vote on the House floor, Mr. Luetkemeyer said, “Today is the first step in making meaningful reforms to our nation’s housing programs. I am pleased that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to support a comprehensive bill that modernizes an outdated system and begins to break a status quo that serves too few at the cost of too many.”
NLIHC joined several other national organizations in supporting the bill. In a joint letter to the Members of the House, the groups urged passage of the bill stating the bill would “ease administrative burdens for housing agencies and owners, while delivering fairer and more efficient assistance to low income families. In addition, the bill provides new tools to preserve affordable housing, reduce homelessness, increase self-sufficiency and expand access to areas of greater opportunity.”
In a separate NLIHC letter to the House urging passage, NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley stated, “Critically, H.R. 3700 would streamline the administration of public and assisted housing, incentivize residents to increase their earned income, help voucher holders move more quickly into private apartments, and improve the project-basing of vouchers.”
Several amendments supported by housing advocates were adopted by voice votes. These include:
- Representative Peter Welch’s (D-VT) amendment to allow housing choice vouchers to cover costs beyond the rental of the land underneath a manufactured home, which is currently the voucher’s only eligible use for manufactured housing. The additional costs would include those of owning the home itself, as well as insurance, utilities, and property taxes. The amendment is a long-sought improvement to how vouchers can be used to assist low-income manufactured home owners who do not own the land beneath their homes.
- Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Robert Aderholt’s (R-AL) amendment to update the Housing for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) distribution formula. The amendment would require the HOPWA distribution formula to count people living with HIV/AIDS and would require HUD to develop regulations that incorporate a poverty factor and a housing cost factor in the updated formula. Currently, HOPWA funds are distributed based on cumulative AIDS cases, representing individuals both living with and dying from AIDS. AIDS housing advocates have been working for years for an improved formula.
- Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters’s (D-CA) amendment to retain the current standard $480 income deduction for dependents and all child care costs that public and assisted housing residents may take before their rents are calculated. The amendment addresses concerns Ranking Member Waters raised during the bill’s Committee mark-up that the bill would increase rents for households with high child care costs. Ranking Member Waters and nine other Democrats opposed the bill during mark-up because of these concerns (see Memo, 12/14/2015).
- Representative Grace Meng’s (D-NY) amendment to require HUD to publish model guidelines for minimum heating requirements for units operated by public housing agencies (PHAs).
- Representative Terri Sewell’s (D-AL) amendment to require HUD to conduct a study of the impacts of H.R. 3700’s income deduction changes on rents paid by the elderly, people with disabilities, and families.
- Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) amendment to direct the Secretaries of HUD and the Department of Labor to produce an annual report on strategies to strengthen family economic empowerment.
An amendment to permanently exempt all PHAs in Mississippi, Iowa, and Alaska, as well as the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, from the federal requirement to have at least one public housing resident or voucher holder on their boards of commissioners passed by a vote of 236 yeas to 178 nays. NLIHC opposed the amendment. For several years, these PHAs have received an annual exemption from this requirement through the HUD appropriations bill. The amendment was offered by Representative Steven Palazzo (R-MS). One Democrat and all but four Republicans supported the amendment. Four Republicans joined the remaining Democrats in opposition.
Read the Committee on Financial Services statement at: http://1.usa.gov/1L3g0Xp
Read the national groups’ letter in support of H.R. 3700 at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/HR-3700_FINAL_sign-on.pdf
Read NLIHC’s letter in support of H.R. 3700 at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/NLIHC_HR-3700-support-letter.pdf