Scott and Colleagues Introduce Bi-Partisan Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act

WASHINGTON – June 23, 2016 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) today introduced the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA), which would streamline and reform federal housing programs to expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income families in high-opportunity neighborhoods with lower crime and better schools, improve the quality of life for public housing residents, strengthen work incentives, reduce homelessness and cut red tape.

The bill is a Senate companion to a House bill that passed unanimously in February, and contains provisions that have been considered by previous Congresses as part of broader housing reform legislation.

“Our low-income and working class families need solutions, not political bickering, and I am proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to address challenges with our nation’s affordable housing programs,” Senator Scott said. “This is a win-win – we are strengthening work incentives, improving access to better schools and working to reduce homelessness while streamlining programs to cut costs and protect taxpayers. I want to thank Senators Menendez, Blunt and Coons for their efforts, and to the House of Representatives for passing this important bill unanimously earlier this year.”

“In a state like New Jersey, finding an affordable place to call home can be terribly difficult – especially for lower income families,” said Sen. Menendez.  “That’s why I’ve fought for years to expand affordable housing opportunities especially in neighborhoods with quality schools, reliable transportation and access to good jobs.  I’m pleased that we’ve been able to craft a bill that builds on what works in our federal approach to affordable housing, and makes smart changes in areas that need improvement.  I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get this bi-partisan legislation over the finish line.”

“Our nation’s housing programs are in desperate need of real reform to protect taxpayers and better address the needs of low-income families, veterans, and seniors,” said Sen. Blunt.  “This bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction, cutting costs while ensuring that more Americans have a safe, affordable place to call home. I urge all of my colleagues to support it.”

“For too long, I’ve heard from housing authorities, tenant advocacy groups and housing professionals in Delaware about the pressing need to update and improve our approach to affordable housing,” said Sen. Coons. “That’s why I am proud to support this critical legislation to streamline outdated housing regulations, improve the popular Section 8 rental assistance programs, strengthen work incentives and address homelessness. It is about time that my colleagues in the Senate come together to support these common-sense proposals that will provide more affordable housing options for people in Delaware and across the country.”

The bill aims to:

  • Expand access to higher opportunity areas through “project-based” vouchers. These vouchers are attached to specific housing units, and will allow families to rent units in areas with lower crime and poverty and with higher-achieving schools. The owners of these housing units contract with public housing agencies to rent to low-income families, allowing the families to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, which has been shown to improve children’s rate of college attendance and long-term earnings.
  • Help address homelessness. The bill would allow housing agencies to use more project-based vouchers to help veterans, the elderly and the homeless. In addition, the bill updates the rules for inspecting units that vulnerable families with tenant-based vouchers wish to rent, which would allow families to move into units more quickly, as well as protecting them from an eviction if the agency found the units to violate housing-quality regulations and suspended payments to the owners. The bill also strengthens voucher assistance for former foster children, who face a high risk of homelessness.
  • Strengthen work incentives. The bill encourages work by delaying rent increases for tenants who start employment or whose earnings rise because they get better-paying jobs or boost their hours.
  • Preserve public housing and improve residents’ quality of life. Agencies would be given more flexibility in using funds for needed renovations in public housing.
  • Reduce administrative burdens for housing agencies and private owners of housing units. The bill streamlines the rules for determining tenants’ rents, allowing agencies and owners to direct their energies elsewhere, in areas that would benefit tenants more, such as providing supportive services.
  • Update the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, through better matching funding for areas to their current level of need.
  • Streamline Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance for condominiums. The bill would make more condominiums eligible for FHA insurance and would consolidate FHA recertification standards.
  • Bolster rural housing programs. Through an expedited loan process for the USDA’s single family guaranteed loan program, the bill would increase access to homeownership for low-income families in rural areas.

The following organizations have announced support for the bill:

Catholic Charities USA

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force

Corporation for Enterprise Development

Corporation for Supportive Housing

Council for Affordable and Rural Housing

Council of Large Public Housing Authorities

Enterprise Community Partners

Housing Assistance Council

Housing Partnership Network

Institute of Real Estate Management

Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States

LeadingAge

Local Initiatives Support Corporation

National Affordable Housing Management Association

National AIDS Housing Coalition

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Alliance to End Homelessness

National Apartment Association

National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders

National Association of Home Builders

National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials

National Association of Housing Cooperatives

National Association of REALTORS

National Council of State Housing Agencies

National Development Council

National Disability Rights Network

National Housing Conference

National Housing Law Project

National Housing Trust

National Leased Housing Association

National Low Income Housing Coalition

National Multifamily Housing Council

NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Public Housing Authorities Directors Association

Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

Technical Assistance Collaborative

The Salvation Army, National Headquarters

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