The recession has made it increasingly difficult for low-income people to afford decent housing. Federal statistics show that record numbers of people now pay more than half their incomes in rent, causing them to skimp on essentials like food, medical care and other basics, and increasing the chances that they will end up homeless.
Local public housing authorities are experiencing record demand for housing vouchers issued under Section 8, the federal program that subsidizes rents for about two million of the nation’s poorest families. In the current budget environment, Congress is unlikely to pump more money into the $18 billion program. But a long-awaited reform bill that has bipartisan support in the House would streamline the current program, freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to help the needy.
A discussion draft of the reform bill, released in June by the majority staff of the House Financial Services Committee, would eliminate costly and burdensome aspects of the voucher program. It would make it easier for landlords to rent to voucher recipients by requiring inspections once every two years instead of annually. It would cut down on administrative delays that sometimes cause people to lose apartments for which they have applied; revise overly complex rent regulations that eat up precious dollars in record-keeping; and revise outdated income guidelines so that the rural, working poor would have a better chance of gaining access to decent housing.
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