Bill Would Create Entitlement to Housing Assistance

Legislation | June 09, 2021 | by Linda Couch

On June 7, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) released a discussion draft of legislation to create an entitlement to housing assistance for qualifying households in the United States. The draft bill, which LeadingAge supports, would issue hundreds of thousands of vouchers each year for the next several years and, after 2026, make housing assistance an entitlement to income-eligible households.

On June 7, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) released a discussion draft of legislation to create an entitlement to housing assistance for qualifying households in the United States. The draft bill, which LeadingAge supports, would issue hundreds of thousands of vouchers each year for the next several years and, after 2026, make housing assistance an entitlement to income-eligible households.

Today, no housing assistance program is automatically available to those in need and eligible people, including 1.93 million older adult renter households who today spend more than half of their incomes on rent, often wait years for help.

The bill shifts the framework for housing assistance for older adults and helps housing providers too because all of the vouchers can be project-based to apartment buildings, allowing for the kinds of place-based attributes we know are so important like Service Coordinators.

The bill directs the HUD Secretary to encourage regional consortia of public housing agencies to administer vouchers, requires the use of small area fair market rents to determine the value of the vouchers, prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income, provide additional funding for the national Housing Trust Fund, and provide funding to integrate and coordinate assistance provided through HUD’s homeless assistance programs with health care funded by federal programs, in collaboration with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In her testimony before the Financial Services Committee at a hearing, Universal Vouchers: Ending Homelessness and Expanding Economic Opportunity in America, Mary Cunningham, senior fellow and vice president, Urban Institute outline benefits of a universal voucher program:

  • Homelessness would be rare and, if it occurred, it would be brief.
  • Universal vouchers would reduce poverty.
  • Universal vouchers would close racial disparities in housing.
  • The housing market could absorb the adoptions of universal housing vouchers and help stabilize landlords.

LeadingAge’s housing policy priorities include an entitlement to housing assistance and we are pleased to support this discussion draft.