The House Financial Services Committee passed, on a party-line vote, the “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act of 2017” (HR 2069) on July 24. The bill aims to provide housing assistance to youth aging out of the foster system, but it provides no additional resources to do so. Instead, the bill imposes work requirements and other burdens on youth as a condition for receiving housing assistance, the first time ever for individuals who rely on such assistance. The committee also approved the “Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017” (HR 1511) by a vote of 39-18. HR 1511 would expand the definition of homelessness without providing the necessary resources for the increased number of people who would qualify for homelessness assistance. NLIHC opposes both bills.
When debating HR 2069, lawmakers focused on the bill’s work and other requirements and on prioritizing federal resources. Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) said that non-elderly, non-disabled individuals should have to work to receive Housing Choice Vouchers to free up resources for foster youth and other vulnerable populations. In response, Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Al Green (D-TX) reiterated that both sides of the aisle believe in the value of work but said it was hypocritical of Republicans to call for cutting housing benefits under the guise of fiscal discipline after they gave massive tax breaks to corporations and wealthy people. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) offered a bill, the “Expanding Housing Opportunities for Foster Youth Act of 2018,” as a substitute amendment that would permanently reauthorize $200 million annually for HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP), which helps provide stable housing for young people transitioning out of foster care. The amendment was rejected by a vote of 23-34.
When debating HR 1511, Representative Waters said that expanding the definition of homelessness without increasing additional funding would simply increase the strain on a system that is already overburdened. She also expressed concerns that HR 1511 prohibits HUD from setting priorities. This would take away a powerful tool for coordinating with other agencies, implementing effective practices, moving forward on a plan to end homelessness, and making the most of the available funding. Representative David Scott (D-GA) expressed frustration over the insufficient funding, saying that “passion without money and resources to make that passion real is just smoke and mirrors.” Representative Waters offered an amendment to the bill that would delay implementation of HR 1511 until HUD makes a determination that Congress has appropriated sufficient funding to “provide a decent, safe, and sanitary dwelling for every individual and family in the United States who is homeless.” The amendment was rejected by a vote of 23-34.
Read a letter opposing HR 2069 from NLIHC and 26 partner organizations at: https://bit.ly/2LtCjAY
Watch the debate on HR 2069 and HR 1511 at: https://bit.ly/2uQryy3