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Waters Introduces Legislation to Expand Access to Affordable Housing

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Washington, DC, October 23, 2015 | comments

In an effort to address a rapid decline in the availability of affordable housing, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, today introduced the Project Based Voucher Improvement Act. The bill would allow public housing authorities (PHAs) increased flexibility to develop new units of housing to serve vulnerable populations, including the homeless, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, and to create housing opportunities in areas where vouchers are difficult to use.

The Section 8 Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program is a valuable tool to help preserve and create more affordable housing, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The PBV program helps housing providers leverage outside financing in order to create and maintain affordable housing in their communities.

“Gaining access to affordable housing is becoming harder and harder for far too many families,” said Ranking Member Waters. “We’re in the midst of a homelessness crisis in my district and many districts around the country, and we need more projects to help get vulnerable populations off of the streets and into stable housing. And by making the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher program easier to use, we’ll help to overcome this challenge and maximize the effectiveness of this critical program while provide stable housing for our most vulnerable populations.”

The bill would facilitate the ability of PHAs to enter into agreements with private and nonprofit owners to use a share of its vouchers at a particular housing development. Through “project-basing” PHAs are able to partner with social service agencies to provide supportive housing.

According to HUD, there are 7.72 million households who have “worst case housing needs” – these are families who are very low income renters who do not receive housing assistance and who pay more than one-half of their income for rent, live in severely substandard housing, or both. At present, the structural gap between incomes and housing costs has created a deep affordability crisis, which has exacerbated homelessness as the ability to find a safe, decent, and affordable place to live moves further out of reach for a larger share of families in America.

Groups in support of the measure include the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Enterprise Community Partners, CSH, National Leased Housing Association, National Multifamily Housing Council, California Housing Partnership, and Shelter Partnership Inc.

Dramatic cuts to HUD funding has exacerbated the rental housing crisis in major cities and rural communities across the country, driving up unprecedented demand for affordable housing. As Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Waters led Committee Democrats in sending a letter to Chairman Hensarling (R-TX), calling for more hearings on the issue of homelessness in March of this year. Later, Waters introduced legislation to establish and strengthen vibrant communities by overhauling the way the government funds public housing, which currently suffers from an over $26 billion dollar capital-needs backlog. The top Democrat has worked to bring more attention to the issue of homelessness, recently hosting a briefing on Capitol Hill with activist, actor and philanthropist Richard Gere, along with housing experts, on the state of homelessness in America.

Read full bill text.
Read a section-by-section summary.


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Tags: HUD

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