Housing LawsA new housing policy bill, that will benefit rental assistance and public housing programs, passed unanimously in the Senate on Friday, July 15.  

The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (H.R. 3700) 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 bill was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives in February 2016 and again saw unanimous support in the Senate this June.

The legislation seeks to modify three areas of federal housing policy:

  • The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance and public housing programs
  • The Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) requirements for condominium mortgage insurance
  • The Department of Agriculture’s single-family housing guaranteed loan program.

“This bill contains a number of reforms to increase access to affordable rental housing, provide assistance to low-income renters and facilitate homeownership,” Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) told National Mortgage Professional Magazine on Friday.

Under the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would be required to change certain aspects of its rental assistance programs by altering calculations of tenant income and rent, and making households that exceed new income and asset limits ineligible for assistance.

Nearly five million families and individuals receive rental assistance each year through HUD, including the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program that provides assistance to roughly two million low-income recipients. Under the Section 8 program, tenants pay approximately 30 percent of their income towards rent and the rest is paid through federal subsidies.

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.

The new legislation is supported by the National Multifamily Housing Council and National Apartment Association, who release the following statement on Friday in response to passage of the  “The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act” in Congress:

“We applaud the U.S. House and Senate for the swift passage of ‘The Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act,’ which maximizes the impact of taxpayer dollars and eliminates inefficiencies in critical federal housing programs. This vital legislation streamlines the Section 8 Voucher Program’s property inspection process by allowing immediate occupancy if the apartment home has been inspected within the past 24 months. The bill will also extend the contract term for project based vouchers from 15 to 20 years.”