07.15.16

Senate Passes, Obama To Sign Key Housing Reforms Backed By Leahy

Senate Passes, President To Sign
Key Housing Reforms Backed By Leahy

. . . Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act
Will Reduce Homelessness And Increase Access To Housing In Vermont And Other States

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, July 15, 2016) – Before leaving for the summer recess, the U.S. Senate Thursday night approved legislation championed by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D) to make needed and long overdue reforms to several federal housing programs. The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives in February, and the bill cleared the Senate Thursday night without opposition. Leahy is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill. In May he wrote to the leaders of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, urging them to lead the committee’s consideration of this legislation and to advance it to the full Senate for a vote.

Leahy, a longtime champion of affordable housing, said: “It is not often that such significant legislation receives such overwhelming support in Congress. After having heard from affordable housing advocates from throughout Vermont and New England, I was proud to cosponsor the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act.”

Leahy continued, “There is no doubt of the impact that federal rental assistance programs have in rural states like ours, and these are commonsense reforms to key housing programs that Congress has not reassessed in nearly two decades. Increasing opportunities for extremely low-income families and families experiencing hardship should be a priority in every community, and at every level of government. I am encouraged to see this level of support for affordable housing initiatives and hardworking advocates throughout our country, and I am pleased this legislation will be signed into law.”

The new law will make several reforms to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, and particularly to the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8. The legislation addresses many priorities of the nation’s affordable housing community, including a more streamlined system for administering federally assisted housing programs. These steps will cut costs and allow providers to meet the needs of a more low-income families seeking assistance. The law will also allow housing agencies to use project-based vouchers for individuals and families who may be homeless, encouraging greater income growth and economic mobility among assisted families. The law also will support communities that seek to make needed repairs to aging public housing stock to improve the quality of life for current and future residents.

Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the Senate has overcome partisan differences to pass this common sense bill.” He added: “These reforms provide Vermont new tools to reduce homelessness, preserve affordable housing, and increase self-sufficiency for low-income Vermonters. Our deepest thanks go to Senator Leahy for his leadership in helping to make this happen!”

The bill now set to become law was strongly supported by the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and the Vermont State Housing Authority. It is also endorsed by a broad coalition of national organizations, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Housing Assistance Council, the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Organizations, the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, and the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also strongly supports the legislation, as does the National Association of Realtors.

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