Senator Cramer joins Senate colleagues, reintroduces bipartisan Choice in Affordable Housing Act

North Dakota U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R) and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) have reintroduced their Choice in Affordable Housing Act to improve the federal government’s largest rental assistance program. 

The bipartisan bill would make it easier to access Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) — often referred to as Section 8 vouchers — and attract and retain landlords to the program. As a result, eligible low-income families will have increased housing choices and improved access to high-opportunity neighborhoods.

“Millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable housing, and with the cost of living on the rise,
Congress should look to amplify existing federal housing programs,” said Senator Cramer. 

“This commonsense, bipartisan bill would enhance the efficacy of the Housing Choice Voucher program by reducing certain regulatory burdens, while establishing incentives to encourage more landlords to participate.

It also increases funding for tribal programs and authorizes $500 million to create a Housing Partnership
Fund named after former Fargo Mayor Herschel Lashkowitz, who dedicated much of his life to making
affordable housing a reality for so many North Dakotans.”

About the HCV Program and Its Impact 
The HCV program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps more than 5 million low-income people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, in a total of 2.3 million households afford safe and decent housing in the private rental market.

Administered by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs), families that receive a voucher pay 30% of household income toward rent and utilities while the PHA pays the landlord the remaining rent. HCVs increase housing stability, reduce homelessness, and each year lift more than 1 million people out of poverty. The HCV program relies on private-market landlords to accept vouchers. Because the number of participating landlords has declined in recent years, voucher holders experience a difficult housing search process with fewer options.

To increase voucher holders’ housing choices and improve access to high-opportunity areas, the Choice in Affordable Housing Act would:

  • Provide $500 million to create the Herschel Lashkowitz Housing Partnership Fund.  Named after the longtime Fargo, North Dakota, mayor who was an advocate for affordable housing, the funds would be distributed for: 

    • PHAs to offer a signing bonus to a landlord with a unit in an area with less than 20% poverty;
    • PHAs to provide security deposit assistance, so that tenants can better afford to meet required deposits and landlords are assured greater protection against damages; 
    • HUD to provide a bonus to PHAs that retain a dedicated landlord liaison on staff; and 
    • Other uses as determined by the PHA and approved by the Secretary to recruit and retain landlords.
  • Increase funding to the Tribal HUD- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program. To help renters on tribal land, the bill supports the Tribal HUD-VASH
     program for Native American veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Use neighborhood-specific data to set rents fairly. The bill would require HUD to expand its 2016 rule requiring the use of Small Area Fair Market Rents
     to calculate fair rents in certain metro areas.
  • Reduce inspection delays. Units in buildings financed by other federal housing programs would meet the voucher inspection if the unit has been inspected in the past year. New landlords could also request a pre-inspection from a PHA prior to selecting a voucher-holding tenant that would be good for 60 days.
  • Refocus HUD’s evaluation of housing agencies. The bill would encourage HUD to reform its annual evaluation of PHAs to promote an increase in the diversity of neighborhoods where vouchers are used. The bill also requires HUD to report to Congress annually on the effects of the bill

Cramer-Coons Proposal Enjoys Broad Bipartisan Support

Senator Cramer is a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds affordable housing programs.

Cramer and Coons are the lead sponsors of the bipartisan act, which has also being co-sponsored in in the Senate by Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Tina Smith (D-Minnessota), and Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). The bill has been introduced in the House by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri).

“From my years serving Delaware as County Executive and Council President, I’ve seen firsthand the positive, life-changing impact that access to a decent, safe, affordable home can have for those trying to provide for their family,” said Senator Coons. 

“That’s why Senator Cramer and I are pushing for this legislation to increase the number of landlords who accept Housing Choice vouchers and expand access to rental assistance for low-income families.”

Bill Endorsed and Strongly Supported by Groups Across the Spectrum

The bill has been endorsed by a large number fo leading advocacy and trade groups, including: The National Affordable Housing Management Association, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, Habitat for Humanity International, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders, RESULTS Education Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, Mobility Works, National Association of Residential Property Managers, National Leased Housing Association, Institute of Real Estate Management, National Rental Home Council, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the National Multifamily Housing Council, the National Apartment Association, and the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing.

A list of all endorsements may be found here.

Credit & Source: Office of Senator Chris Coons