Bill Introduced to Provide Immediate Housing Assistance to Low-Income Households during Natural and Economic Disasters

Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the “Crisis Housing Act” on December 14. The bill would establish the Crisis Housing Assistance Program (CHAP), a new voucher program that would be automatically triggered by natural disasters and sharp rises in unemployment.

If enacted, CHAP would automatically activate when a disaster is declared under the Stafford Act, or when the 6-month moving average of the unemployment rate in a state increases drops more than 0.5% lower than the lowest state unemployment rate in the previous year. Once activated, CHAP would provide housing assistance through local public housing agencies for households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income and for households identified by FEMA as in need of housing assistance.

This assistance would come online within a month of the unemployment drop or disaster declaration and last for at least two years. Assistance could be used outside of the immediate disaster area, allowing households to move if a disaster substantially damages the local housing stock. The program would also include housing counseling to support households attempting to access permanent housing. FEMA housing programs have long been criticized by advocates as unable to meet the needs of low-income disaster survivors.

The bill is supported by the NLIHC and the NLIHC-coordinated Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC). “Disasters often hit the lowest income households hardest, yet these same families struggle to receive the housing assistance they need afterwards. The result is often a predictable and entirely preventable rise in eviction and homelessness rates,” President and CEO of NLIHC Diane Yentel stated in a press release announcing the bill’s introduction. “If passed, the Crisis Housing Act would play a critical role in providing safe, accessible, and affordable homes to individuals with the greatest needs after a disaster by providing longer-term, flexible, rental assistance – helping them safely recover without the fear of being rendered homeless.”

Read the text of the bill at:

Read a press release announcing the bill’s introduction at: