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Section 8 Voucher Funding and Reform
|Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (the “Housing Choice Voucher program”) is the primary program assisting extremely low-income people with the cost of housing. Ongoing efforts aim to streamline and enhance the program.|
In his fiscal year (FY) 2014 Budget Proposal, the President recommended providing $20 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, including $75 million for approximately 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers and $111 million for new mainstream vouchers provided by the Section 811 Program. The budget proposal also includes a significant increase for the Project-Based Rental Assistance voucher program to $10.272 billion.
On June 27, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bill to provide funding for programs within the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for FY 2014, that would provide $19.6 billion for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program and $10.7 billion for the Project-Based Rental Assistance voucher program. The House Appropriations Committee approved similar legislation the same day to provide $18.611 billion for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program and $9.451 billion for the Project-Based Rental Assistance voucher program. The legislation approved by both chambers’ Appropriations Committees included $75 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers.
Unfortunately, due in part to poor timing, the FY 2014 HUD funding legislation did not pass through either full chamber of Congress prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2013. This year, Congress was also unable to reach a deal on a continuing resolution (CR), or stopgap funding measure that would have temporarily funded the government at post-sequestration FY 2013 levels until an agreement was reached, as they have done in recent years. Therefore, the government partially shut down at midnight on September 30th until, with the added pressure of a looming deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Congress was able to pass a deal on October 16 that reopened the government.
This fiscal package included measures to fund the government until January 15 at post-sequestration FY 2013 levels and delay the date on which the nation will need to address the debt ceiling to February 7. The package also set December 13 as the date by which lawmakers are expected to complete their conference report on an FY 2014 Budget Resolution, which will provide an outline for how federal funding will be spent. To do so, both chambers selected conferees to join a conference committee to reach a compromise between the different funding levels included in earlier House and Senate FY 2014 Budget Resolutions. Negotiations have thus far involved various strategies to reduce the nation's deficit, and the conference committee chairs have signaled that in order to increase the likelihood of coming to an agreement they are now striving toward a relatively modest goal, which would likely involve financing a partial easing of both FY 2014 and FY 2015 sequestration cuts by raising revenue through increasing various federal fees and making cuts to some federal benefits. It remains unclear whether any more controversial deficit reduction strategies, such as closing loopholes in the tax code or making cuts to entitlement programs, will ultimately be included in the agreement.
There is currently pressure by House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for the conference committee to agree to a topline spending number in advance of the technical December 13 deadline. Expediting the process in this way would allow appropriators to conclude the long-delayed work on FY 2014 spending bills (including the one that funds the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program) sooner, with the goal of having an omnibus bill prepared in time to meet the set January 15 deadline to prevent another federal government shutdown. In the case that the conference committee fails to reach an agreement, plans are underway in the House to introduce a full-year FY 2014 continuing resolution (CR), or stopgap funding measure, at the relatively low $967 billion topline spending level outlined in the initial House FY 2014 Budget Resolution. The $967 billion level of spending would result in dramatic cuts to many HUD programs.
In terms of other related legislation, in April 2012, in an effort to move forward with various reforms of the Section 8 program, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity released the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act (AHSSIA), which includes a variety of changes to the Section 8 Program, including most notably an increase in minimum rents to $69.45, with an exception that would allow both public housing agencies and private owners to have rents less than $69.45 if they state good cause. This legislation would also improve hardship exemptions from minimum rent policies. However, since the bill was never formally introduced in the House, the bill died at the end of the 112th Congress. Neither chamber of Congress has yet floated a draft of rental assistance reform legislation in the 113th Congress. This past October, national housing organizations sent a letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees urging them to include 11 key rental assistance program reforms (from AHSSIA and other legislation) in the final FY 2014 appropriations bill. Due to the cost savings produced by reform legislation (as highlighted in the above letter), such legislation will likely be reconsidered in the future. The President's Budget Proposal also includes a series of legislative changes to the programs intended to streamline and enhance them.
About the Section 8 Program
About Reform Efforts
There has been an ongoing attempt to reform the Housing Choice Voucher program in previous congresses. The previous efforts, known as the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) and the Section 8 Savings Act (SESA) intended to streamline and enhance the program, though there were controversies surrounding the minimum rent requirement in SESA. The Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Act of 2011 (AHSSIA) was introduced by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity. Similar to SESA, AHSSIA would require HUD to implement minimum rents of approximately $70/month for tenants, though this iteration of the reform legislation does strengthen hardship exemptions and allow public housing authorities to make their own determination on waiving the monthly rents. AHSSIA would also allow up to 500,000 units to be included in a basic Moving to Work (MTW) program and in general strengthens the allocation of voucher renewal funding - the main impetus behind reforming the program.
Reform of the Housing Choice Voucher program for the first time in ten years would help the program continue to provide affordable housing to millions of households, while using federal resources more efficiently. For a more in-depth analysis of proposals as they are available and other information, please see the National Low Income Housing Coalition's webpage.