Congresswoman Waters Reintroduces Section 8 Voucher Reform Bill
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and a top congressional advocate for affordable housing, reintroduced H.R. 1209, The Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA), late last week. The bill would reform the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which provides rental housing assistance to 2 million low-income American families.
"More than three years after the housing bubble burst, the financial markets collapsed, and millions of people lost their jobs, foreclosures are continuing, the economy is still struggling, and too many Americans are underemployed or unemployed," said Congresswoman Waters. "Making rental housing more affordable and accessible to millions of low-income Americans by expanding and strengthening the Section 8 Voucher Program, as my legislation does, is the kind of public policy Congress should be pursuing – especially when Republicans just voted to end assistance to homeowners and communities dealing with foreclosure issues."
H.R. 1209 would establish a stable, fair and cost-effective funding system for the Section 8 program. It would also restore previous assistance levels by authorizing 150,000 new vouchers.
Under the bill, several critical provisions streamline the process of providing Section 8 housing assistance. The calculations governing tenant rent payments are simplified, reducing the burden on housing agencies, tenants and private owners of subsidized housing. The bill likewise streamlines the housing inspection process, by requiring HUD to address administrative burdens that make it difficult to transfer vouchers between jurisdictions. Additionally, the bill provides the flexibility needed for public housing authorities to preserve affordable housing by allowing agencies to make greater use of "project-based" vouchers.
The bill also reforms Moving to Work, renaming it the Housing Innovation Program, which currently permits the Department of Housing and Urban Development to waive certain regulations for 30 public housing agencies, allowing them to experiment with different rent structures and programs. To ensure the efficacy of the program in addressing the needs of the most vulnerable households, the bill provides for rigorous evaluation requirements, stronger tenant protections, and clearer program goals to ensure effective use of federal funds.
Original cosponsors of the Congresswoman's legislation are Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee; Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), the Ranking Member of the Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN); and Del. Pedro Pierluisi (D-P.R.).