The Opportunity Starts at Home (OSAH) multi-sector affordable homes campaign hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill on January 14 to discuss two major bipartisan housing bills recently introduced in the Senate - the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” both policy priorities of the campaign. The briefing was attended by over 100 Capitol Hill staffers and advocates. The briefing focused on the importance of the legislation and encouraged elected officials to cosponsor and support the bills in the House and Senate.
The “Eviction Crisis Act,” introduced by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Todd Young (R-IN), would create new tools to tackle the nation’s ongoing eviction epidemic, including the creation a new Emergency Assistance Fund to provide direct financial assistance to help families remain stably housed during an unforeseen economic shock, such as a broken-down car or sudden medical bill. The “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” introduced by Senators Todd Young and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), would create 500,000 new housing vouchers specifically designed to help families with young children access neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other crucial resources.
Briefing speakers included:
- Senators Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, and Michael Bennet
- Dr. Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
- Diane Yentel, NLIHC president and CEO
- Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
- Sarah Oppenheimer, associate director of policy and research at Opportunity Insights
- Jeffrey Williams, tenant advocate in Richmond, Virginia
The introduction of the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” are significant milestones for the campaign in getting its policy ideas introduced into legislation. The solutions contained in these bills have been priorities of the campaign from its inception. Together with its multi-sector partners, the campaign will continue to champion these bills until they are enacted into law. The fact that these bills are bipartisan – especially in the current political climate – speaks volumes about the growing recognition that housing is inextricably linked to nearly every measure of having a quality life.
“I think we’re seeing a growing awareness among colleagues in both parties of how important housing is – that everything begins and ends in housing,” said Senator Brown. “If people aren’t housed adequately in safe, affordable, clean surroundings, so much else goes badly in their lives.”
“The focus of the legislation that Senator Young and I have introduced [the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act] is families with kids because we know that moving to opportunity makes a huge difference in helping families transition out of poverty,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The fact that Senator Young and I were able to team up on this is an important sign that there is bipartisan support. We need your help in expanding the list of cosponsors.”
“When I was superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, I realized the profound effect that housing was having on the quality of the education that kids were getting,” said Senator Bennet. “The Eviction Crisis Act is now a bipartisan piece of legislation in the Senate, and I really think there is a real chance that we’re going to be able to get this bill passed. We will do absolutely everything we can do to make sure we get it across the finish line.”
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