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New Bipartisan Bill Would Create 500,000 New Opportunity Vouchers

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” on December 18. The bill would create an additional 500,000 housing vouchers specifically designed for low-income families with young children in order to expand their access to neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other resources. This bill could largely eliminate homelessness among families with young children, as well as substantially reduce the number of children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty. This policy solution has been championed by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, which worked with the bill’s sponsors to get the bill introduced.

The bill prioritizes for these new vouchers low-income pregnant women and families with children under age six who either have a recent history of homelessness or housing instability, or who live in an area of concentrated poverty (or are at risk of being displaced from an opportunity area). These 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 bill 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, quality schools, and low crime, they are significantly more likely to attend college, less likely to become single parents, and more likely to earn dramatically more as adults over the course of their lifetimes. This helps break cycles 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. 

“Our nation is in the grip of an affordable rental housing crisis, forcing 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. Because of longstanding housing segregation, discrimination, racism, and other factors, when families do receive assistance they often have few choices about where to live – impacting everything from health outcomes, educational attainment, and income,” stated Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “I applaud Senators Todd Young and Chris Van Hollen for introducing the ‘Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2019’ to provide 500,000 of America’s lowest-income 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.”

The campaign’s press release featuring quotes from its multi-sector partners is at: https://bit.ly/2Z8u9kI   

A fact sheet about the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” is at: https://bit.ly/36Tx83s

The press release from Senators Van Hollen and Young is at: https://bit.ly/2Z6CHbQ  

The full text of the bill is at: https://bit.ly/2Z6ownj

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