Section 8 Voucher Reform Act Expands Program, Saves $20 Billion, But Punitive Anti-immigrant Amendment Limits Access for Citizens
Washington, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives last night voted by a margin of 333-83 to pass H.R. 1851, the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA). SEVRA corrects the formula for voucher allocation by using more recent and accurate statistics. Affordable housing advocates estimate the use of outdated information has led to the loss of 150,000 vouchers since 2004.
In 2005, the Department of Housing and Urban Development found 6.5 million low-income renter households that did not receive housing assistance had paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities or lived in severely substandard rental housing. This number increased by 20 percent between 2001 and 2005.
In response, SEVRA authorizes 20,000 incremental vouchers in each of the next 5 years, for a total of 100,000 new vouchers, as well as eliminating inefficiencies that have resulted in $1.4 billion in unused funds and through incentives for agencies to use funds to assist more families. SEVRA will save $20 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“I am proud to have voted for legislation that expands affordable housing opportunities,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva. “That we were able to have done this while saving billions of dollars is especially gratifying. Although this legislation improves an excellent program, I am disheartened that punitive and impractical measures were added.”
A successful motion to recommit added a superfluous amendment to the bill that will hinder the access of US Citizens to badly needed housing assistance. Current law already defines eligibility and prohibits undocumented and certain legal immigrants from applying for Section 8 aid.
“Unfortunately, some of my democratic colleagues gave in to an irrational, emotional appeal. This amendment was an expression of spiteful anti-immigrant rhetoric, and will create more barriers to aid for US citizens,” Grijalva noted. “The proposed restrictions would terminate assistance to an entire household –including children – if even one adult member of the household is unable to comply with the new inflexible verification requirements.”
“The need for affordable housing is profound and increases by the day,” Grijalva added. “While the new majority in the people’s House has made a very effective program even better, it is very unfortunate that some of my colleagues voted to make access to that very program more difficult for citizens in need.”