The Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on February 8, 2019 as H.R. 1122 by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D – MO) and in the Senate on January 31, 2019 as S.291 by Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program was created in 1974 and was originally known as the Section 8 Certificate Program. A person or family receiving the voucher chooses their own residence (as long as it meets the program’s requirements), and a housing subsidy is paid to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. The tenant generally pays 30% of adjusted income in rent.
A 2015 Harvard study found that voucher recipients who move to higher opportunity neighborhoods receive better educations and earn more money over the years. However, a House Financial Services Committee found that the program has not been as effective as it could be. Lower-income families receiving the voucher usually do not move out of lower-income neighborhoods.
What the Bill Does
This demonstration program would establish a pilot program to award housing vouchers in such a way as to encourage recipients to move to communities with less poverty.
The Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) would administer the program for up to five years, at the conclusion of which it would submit a report to Congress – and, if successful, the program could expand nationwide.
Supporters argue that the bill will help those who need a leg up, by better targeting an existing government assistance program to help people move out of poverty. It would provide expanded opportunities to quality education and employment.
There is opposition to the proposal – mainly that it simply tweaks an existing government program and that it will ultimately add costs without significant benefits. Primary opposition is coming from Freedom Caucus or Liberty Caucus affiliated Republicans. However, during floor debate, no member of Congress publicly spoke out against the bill.
Chance of Passage
The bill passed the House on March 11 by an overwhelming 382 to 22 vote. Every voting Democrat was in favor, 210-0. Republicans largely supported as well, though with some dissenting votes, 168-22.
It now goes to the Senate but could face the same fate as last year. A previous version passed the House, then under Republican control, by a similar 368-19 vote – but never received a vote in the Senate.
The current Senate version has five bipartisan cosponsors: three Democrats and two Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee.
I’ll keep track and provide updates on its fate.