During floor consideration of H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2015, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of Financial Services Committee, urged support of the bill, which seeks to enact several incremental changes across a number of federal housing programs that will allow affordable housing providers to better serve low-income families in need of housing assistance.
H.R. 3700 includes text of Legislation introduced earlier this year by Ranking Member Waters, H.R. 3827, the Project-Based Voucher Improvement Act of 2015, which would increase flexibility for public housing authorities to develop new units of housing to serve vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless in this country, and help to create housing opportunities in areas where vouchers are difficult to use.
Waters worked with Republicans to remove a problematic provision from the bill, which would have negatively affected families with children living in certain HUD-assisted housing. As a result of this compromise, Waters urged Democrats to support passage of the bill.
The full text of the remarks is below.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are here today to discuss H.R. 3700, but I would like to start by saying how pleased I am that we are focusing on housing. This is the first major housing bill that the Financial Services Committee has considered in the past several Congresses, and I hope that we can spend a lot more time focusing on the dire housing needs of low-income families in America as we move forward.
Today, only one in four households in this country who are eligible to receive housing assistance actually receive it, and there is a severe deficit of over 7 million rental units that are both affordable and available to extremely low income Americans. Furthermore, according to HUD’ most recent point-in-time count, there are nearly 600,000 Americans who are homeless in this country – a staggering number I find simply unconscionable. These statistics demonstrate that we must come together to make reforms to federal housing programs, but also to commit new resources to tackle the extreme lack of affordable housing in this country.
I spend a lot of time visiting and talking with housing and homeless services providers. Recently, I visited the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles and N Street Village here in DC. These homeless service providers are helping women and families get off the streets and into safe, decent, affordable, and supportive housing. Organizations such as these are not just applying compassion, they are applying evidence-based approaches to addressing homelessness in the most effective ways.
H.R. 3700 is a step in the right direction because it directly responds to concerns that I have heard over and over again from these housing and homeless service providers about how federal housing programs can better support their efforts. This bill would make several incremental changes across a number of federal housing programs that will allow us to better serve low-income families in need of housing assistance while also relieving certain administrative burdens. These changes would affect public housing, Section 8 Tenant- and Project Based Rental Assistance, the Federal Housing Administration, the Rural Housing Service, and HUD’s homelessness programs, among others.
Many of the provisions are common-sense reforms that are long overdue. For example, this bill includes the text of my bill, “The Project Based Voucher Improvement Act of 2015,” which would increase flexibility for public housing authorities to develop new units of housing to serve vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless in this country, and it would also help to create housing opportunities in areas where vouchers are difficult to use. Several national and local tenant advocacy organizations and affordable housing industry groups have expressed support for my bill. In addition, a number of other provisions in H.R. 3700 were included in previous Section 8 reform bills that I have introduced, and I am pleased that my Republican colleagues have expressed their support for these provisions that I have long-advocated.
At the markup of this bill, I raised a concern that I had with one of the provisions in H.R. 3700 because it would effectively raise rents for low-income families with children who are living in certain HUD-assisted housing. Although I voted against the bill at the Committee markup for this reason, I am glad to say that I have since worked with my Republican colleagues to find common ground, and they have indicated that they will support an amendment that I have offered to address this issue.
I am encouraged that my Republican colleagues shared in my concerns, and that we were able to reach a meaningful compromise on this issue. That is why I am urging my colleagues to vote “Yes” on H.R. 3700. It is high time that we came together to pass a bipartisan housing bill.