Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) on June 9 reintroduced the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” which would create an additional 500,000 housing vouchers specifically designed for low-income families with young children to expand access to neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other resources. The legislation would largely eliminate homelessness among families with young children, as well as substantially reduce the number of children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty. The policy solution has been championed by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, which worked with the bill’s sponsors to shape the legislation.
The bill would prioritize new vouchers for low-income pregnant women and families with children under age 6 who have a recent history of homelessness or housing instability, live in an area of concentrated poverty, or are at risk of being displaced from an opportunity area. The new vouchers would be coupled with counseling and services that have a proven track record of supporting parents and helping families move out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. The half-million new vouchers created through this legislation would be phased in over five years at 100,000 per year.
Research shows that when children in poor families grow up in neighborhoods with low poverty, high quality schools, and low crime, they are significantly more likely to attend college, less likely to become single parents, and likely to earn more as adults over the course of their lifetimes. This helps break the cycle of generational poverty and produces a positive taxpayer return. Research also shows that low-income students perform better academically and close achievement gaps faster when housing assistance enables them to live stably in opportunity neighborhoods with lower-poverty schools.
Campaign Leaders Support the Legislation
“Low-income children facing housing instability and growing up in neighborhoods of extreme poverty are more likely to struggle in school, more likely to experience adverse health outcomes, and less likely to climb the income ladder as adults,” said Mike Koprowski, national director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Research clearly shows that Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers can dramatically improve the life trajectories of low-income children by expanding access to stable, affordable housing located in safe, well-resourced communities. This legislation contains one of the most research-based and cost-effective policy tools available to the federal government to dramatically improve upward mobility for the next generation.”
“Even before the pandemic, our nation was in the grips of an affordable housing crisis that forced three out of every four of America’s lowest-income families to make impossible tradeoffs between paying rent and putting groceries on the table or meeting their other basic needs,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of NLIHC. “Ongoing structural racism, discrimination, and segregation in our communities exacerbates the challenges, impacting health outcomes, educational attainment, in some cases, life expectancy. The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act is a critical first step toward housing justice by providing 500,000 families with young children the breadth of opportunities that start with affordable homes in safe, thriving communities with access to good schools, jobs, healthcare, and transit.”
Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, offered additional support: “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act that Senators Van Hollen and Young introduced would protect many young children from hardship and provide critical resources they need to thrive, by helping their families afford stable homes in a neighborhood they choose. It’s a well-designed, evidence-based initiative that would make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in families with incomes below the poverty line.”
“Early childhood is a critical window of brain and body development. Our Children’s HealthWatch research and my experience as a pediatrician show a stable home early in life is the foundation for good health,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, pediatrician and co-lead principal investigator for Children’s HealthWatch. “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers give children and families a fair shot at healthy development during this important period and will have a positive impact on health for generations to come.”
“This bill will allow families with low-wages or unreliable incomes to stay stably housed and avoid homelessness,” said Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We are grateful to Senators Young and Van Hollen for their vision and compassion. Children who are helped by this program will benefit throughout their lives.”
“We commend Senators Van Hollen and Young for this crucial bipartisan legislation to provide more options for safe and secure rental housing during this time when the affordable housing stock is decreasing, and families of every racial and ethnic minority are struggling,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the senior vice president for policy and advocacy. “Housing stability has numerous benefits for children and families. We look forward to working together to ensure this bill becomes a much-needed reality.”
“Finding affordable and stable housing is intrinsically linked to a family’s ability to meet all its basic needs, including putting food on the table,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act represents good public policy with positive ripple effects. Not only does the Act work to house low-income families with young children in neighborhoods with strong schools, better job prospects, and community assets like healthy food retail outlets, but it safeguards families from the multiple harms to nutrition, health and well-being emanating from homelessness, unaffordable housing and housing instability. These types of policies are especially important during this unprecedented pandemic and its associated economic shocks, which are disproportionately impacting Brown and Black households.”
“The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds and fully supports Senators Chris Van Hollen and Todd Young in their bipartisan introduction of the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act that would create 500,000 new housing vouchers,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of NASW. “As the nation’s largest professional social work organization, we are well aware of the fact that the most important support service for low-income families is safe and affordable housing. Therefore, we welcome this legislation that will significantly increase the availability of housing vouchers and help to end the cycle of homelessness low-income families with young children too often experience. The bill will also give these families access to neighborhoods where there are better opportunities – communities with stronger schools, better job prospects, and more readily available services to meet their basic bio-psychosocial needs. NASW stands with the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign in supporting the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act and will offer our resources to help with its passage.”
“The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act will expand assistance targeted to families urgently in need and prove that poverty is a cycle that can be broken,” said Jessica Love, executive director of Prosperity Indiana and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Our network enthusiastically supports this bill and applauds Senators Young and Van Hollen for their leadership in working to ensure housing unstable families and children in our state and across the country have more equitable opportunities to thrive in all facets of life.”
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Read the press release from Senator Van Hollen, which includes quotes from Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Mike Koprowski, national campaign director here.
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