MBA, Trade Groups Urge Support for HUD Section 8 Reforms

The Mortgage Bankers Association and other industry trade groups sent a letter to House leaders urging support for legislation  that would reform the HUD Section 8 Housing Voucher program.

The Oct. 22 letter to leadership of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Housing and Insurance urges passage of H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act of 2015. The bill offers reforms to HUD’s Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, which provides rental subsidies to nearly two million very low-income households who obtain housing in the private rental market.  

“Our industry believes it is imperative for Congress to pass legislation that will improve the Voucher Program for both residents and owners alike: maximizing the impact of taxpayer dollars and eliminating inefficiencies are a must,” the letter said. “The Voucher Program has proven to be effective in helping low-income families find decent, safe and affordable housing. In addition, Section 8 vouchers can be leveraged to build new or rehabilitate existing affordable housing, a necessity in today’s tight rental markets.”  

Despite its success, the Voucher Program “suffers under the weight of too many inefficient and duplicative requirements,” the letter said. “The myriad overlapping and redundant procedures have made it difficult to administer and have deterred many professional owners and operators from participating.”  

The Housing Modernization Act would streamline federal regulation and simplify rules for program participants, aimed at reducing administrative burdens and lower costs and encouraging flexibility. Key provisions include:  

–Streamlining the Property Inspection Process. The bill permits immediate tenant occupancy if the unit has been inspected within the past 24 months and has no life-threatening conditions.

–Simplifying Rent and Income Calculations. This provision allows recertification of rent and income to occur every three years rather than annually for those on fixed incomes. A stand-alone bill with this same language passed the House earlier this year.

–Extending the Contract Term for Project-based Vouchers from 15 to 20 Years. This section would facilitate use of project-based vouchers in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties. The rental subsidies provided by vouchers help LIHTC owners meet the need to serve extremely low-income households. The bill also makes other changes that will advance housing opportunities and ease transactional barriers.

–Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act of 1990. This provision makes technical changes and important flexibilities to properties that are subject to restrictions under LIHPRHA while ensuring long-term preservation of these affordable multifamily housing properties. This same language passed the House earlier this year.  

“These provisions have no budgetary impact on the federal government and will facilitate recapitalization of the properties by both for profit and non-profit preservation entities,” the letter said.  

Joining MBA in the letter: the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing; Institute of Real Estate Management; LeadingAge; National Affordable Housing Management Association; National Apartment Association; National Association of Home Builders; National Association of Housing Cooperatives; National Leased Housing Association; and the National Multifamily Housing Council.