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New Legislation Aims to Bolster Affordable Housing

On May 20, 2021, Senators Coons (D-Del.) and Kramer (R-N.D.) introduced S. 1820, the “Choice in Affordable Housing Act,” a bipartisan piece of legislation that will increase investment and reduce programmatic barriers to attract and retain robust housing provider participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) proudly supports the “Choice in Affordable Housing Act” and applauds both senators for their work on this bill, which addresses many of the burdensome barriers that complicate and deter housing providers’ participation in the HCV Program. Importantly, the proposal maintains the voluntary nature of the program, as Congress intended. 

The HCV program is the nation’s primary and most successful rental subsidy program. Over the years, NAA has continued to strongly support the program as a central part of the solution to the housing affordability crisis. However, reforms are needed to relieve its inefficiencies, eliminate burdensome regulatory requirements and incentivize more housing provider participation. 

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded study found that 68 percent of rental property owners in the study’s dataset who refuse to accept voucher holders had, in fact, accepted them previously, a testament to the program’s programmatic challenges.

Revitalization of the HCV Program has remained a key priority for NAA and the industry it represents; in fact, it was a key priority at this year’s Lobby Day. In 2018, NAA gathered industry experts to identify the most significant challenges for owners and operators. We proposed practical solutions that would incentivize voluntary participation in the HCV Program and optimize its potential for success.  Due to NAA’s strong, continuous advocacy, many industry asks were included in the bill, such as:

  • Incentive payments to new housing providers who operate in areas of opportunity, in order to increase renters housing choice and access.
  • Administrative fee bonuses for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) that administer the program to hire “landlord liaisons.” Liaison would serve as a dedicated resource for program participants to resolve challenges and provide consistent guidance and training.
  • Security deposit assistance to help voucher holders with upfront housing expenses and provide housing providers greater protection against damages.
  • Inspection reciprocity so that owners and operators already subject to other federal inspection protocols satisfy HCV requirements. 
  • Allow for “pre-approval” of units where a new housing provider participant can request an inspection of units and use that inspection to lease to a participating resident within 60 days.
  • Application of Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) methodologies in more jurisdictions to ensure accuracy of payments and alignment with market rates, including an exception to prevent SAFMR calculations from decreasing rent payments.

By speeding tenancy approval processes, reducing duplicative inspections requirements and providing better ongoing support for housing provider participants, the “Choice in Affordable Housing Act” will encourage more voluntary participation in the program and, most importantly, increase positive outcomes for participating owners and residents alike.

We urge members to contact their Senators and urge their support for S. 1820, “Choice in Affordable Housing Act”!

For any questions on Section 8, please contact Jodie Applewhite, Manager of Public Policy.