Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced on June 29 the “Affordable Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) Act,” a comprehensive bill that, if enacted, would provide robust resources for the construction of affordable housing and increase access to housing for millions of low-income people. The legislation would provide significant resources and protections for renters called for in the HoUSed campaign.
The bill proposes $45 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund for the construction and preservation of housing affordable to the lowest-income households, and $100 million per year over ten years for rural housing development. The bill would also scale up tenant-based rental assistance, allowing for one million new vouchers for low-income households by 2031. If enacted, the bill would also repeal the Faircloth Amendment, allowing for the construction of additional units of public housing and providing $1 billion every year for ten years to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Program to increase access to permanent supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness.
The “HOME Act” would enact meaningful renter protections, including just-cause eviction and source-of-income discrimination protections, which would help ensure families are able to remain stably housed and voucher recipients looking to rent in the private market could not be denied tenancy because of their voucher. The bill also proposes prohibiting denying a voucher-holding applicant access to housing based solely on a non-violent criminal conviction. In an effort to address the impact of historical and ongoing discrimination in housing, the bill would establish an Office of Restorative Housing Justice at HUD and a Restorative Housing Justice Fund to provide housing assistance for individuals and their parents, grandparents, or primary caretakers who have experienced displacement or discrimination in housing.
Additionally, the bill would establish a fund for state, local, and tribal governments that have established a right to counsel in housing courts. Eligible entities would be able to access this fund to be reimbursed for the cost of implementing right-to-counsel measures. To increase landlord engagement in the voucher program, the bill would create a Landlord Guarantee Program to provide financial assistance to landlords renting to voucher-holding tenants to mitigate any potential damage to the unit caused by a resident. The bill also proposes increasing rates of homeownership through the creation of a homeowner assistance fund, promoting energy efficiency by establishing a Community Energy Savings Program, and would create a Manufactured Housing Preservation grant.
“More than ever, bold policies are needed to ensure that the lowest income and most marginalized people have a stable, affordable, accessible home,” said NLIHC’s President and CEO Diane Yentel in a press release for the bill. “I applaud Senator Merkley for his continued leadership and dedication in advocating for solutions to America’s housing crisis, such as those included in the Making Affordable Housing Opportunities More Equitable Act. If enacted, the targeted resources in this bill could end homelessness and housing poverty in the United States, once and for all.”
Read the press release at: https://tinyurl.com/chkx268
View the text of the bill at: https://tinyurl.com/b9v6pyzt