Housing: Bipartisan Housing Bills Introduced in Senate

Last month, two bills to improve housing stability for low-income tenants were introduced in the Senate. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Todd Young (R-IN), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Eviction Crisis Act of 2019 (S.3030). This bill funds emergency assistance to help reduce preventable evictions and creates a database for tracking eviction data, including disability status. The bill also supports landlord-tenant community courts and increasing social services representatives for tenants (with an effective communication requirement).

Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2019 (S.3083). This bill creates affordable housing vouchers to help low-income, high-need families with young children move to areas of greater opportunity. Additionally, it provides counseling and case management for families receiving these vouchers.

Housing: Upcoming Webinars on Housing Funding Opportunities

Next month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will host two webinars regarding recent Notices of Funding Availability (NOFA) for Section 811 Housing. The first HUD webinar will relate to the FY 2019 811 Project Rental Assistance Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities NOFA, for project-based rental assistance funding to housing agencies, and will take place on December 4 at 2:30 pm EST. The second HUD webinar will relate to the FY 2019 Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Capital Advance) NOFA, for non-profits to develop new permanent supportive rental housing, and will take place on December 12 at 2:00 pm EST.

On December 19 at 1:00 pm EST, the Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities will host a webinar to supplement the information provided in the HUD webinars. This webinar will review the NOFA requirements, including strategies to support strong applications. Applications for both opportunities are due Feb. 10, 2020.

Budget & Appropriations/Housing: Senate Committee to Mark Up THUD Appropriations Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies is also scheduled to mark up the FY2020 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development bill (or THUD) on Tuesday, September 17, and the full Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Thursday, September 19. There are many important programs that impact of the lives of people with disabilities and their families included this bill. For information on how the FY 2020 funding bill could impact Housing Choice Vouchers, see this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Housing: Senate to Hold Hearing on Housing Finance Reform

On September 10, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Housing Finance Reform: Next Steps”. Witnesses will include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and Federal Housing Agency Director Mark Calabria. People with disabilities and their families already face a national shortage of accessible, affordable housing, particularly the lowest-income people with disabilities, so it’s important to make sure housing finance reform proposals would not create additional barriers or increase costs in a way that worsens the problem. Visit the committee website for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Housing: Advocates Host National Housing Week of Action

From May 30-June 5, housing advocates across the country are hosting a National Housing Week of Action to promote affordable housing and educate policymakers. Advocates are encouraged to join the National Tweetstorm on Tuesday, June 4 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EDT to highlight need for more decent, safe, affordable, and accessible housing.

Correction: Original version incorrectly stated that June 4 was a Thursday.

Housing: HUD Proposes Ban on Housing Assistance for Mixed Status Families

On May 10, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule that would prohibit “mixed status” immigrant families from living in public housing and Section 8 units. “Mixed status” families are families in which some members are ineligible for housing assistance based on immigration status. The rule would result in family separations and could lead to evictions of thousands of people, including children, who face an increased risk of homelessness. The Arc is working with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to submit comments on the proposed rule by the July 9 deadline. For more information, see www.keep-families-together.org.

Housing: House Committee to Hold Hearing on HUD Oversight

On May 21, the House Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing titled “Housing in America: Oversight of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson will testify. As stated in the Committee’s announcement, the hearing will examine “the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s current state of affairs and address major changes to agency policies and programs since 2017.” Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.

Tax/Housing: HUD Issues Guidance on Treatment of ABLE Accounts

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued long-awaited guidance clarifying that funds in ABLE accounts should not be included in determining a person’s eligibility for means-tested housing assistance. ABLE accounts are available to people with significant disabilities that developed before the age of 26, including those who meet the eligibility requirements under Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Money in an ABLE account can be used to cover “qualified disability expenses,” such as housing, education, and transportation. In general, to be eligible for some public benefits that many people with disabilities and their families rely on, including Medicaid and housing assistance, an individual is limited to no more than $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds, and other items of significant value. ABLE accounts are an option for people with disabilities to build savings without taking away their eligibility for these important benefits.

The ABLE Act states that amounts in an ABLE account or contributions to an ABLE account and pay-outs for qualified disability expenses should not be counted for federal means-tested programs. Consistent with Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration policy, the HUD notice clarifies that, for the purpose of determining eligibility and continued occupancy for a list of key HUD programs, HUD will disregard amounts in the individual’s ABLE account. Some people with disabilities and their families have heard confusing or inaccurate information about whether or not participation in ABLE could threaten their receipt of other critical federal benefits. The notice is good news for people in HUD-funded programs and should be helpful in addressing questions about the treatment of ABLE account funds.

Housing – Fair Housing Improvement Act Introduced

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018” (S. 3612). The bill would expand the Fair Housing Act’s protections to prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income or veteran status. Under the bill, source of income includes a Section 8 housing voucher or other form of federal, state, or local housing assistance; Social Security or Supplemental Security Income; income received by court order, including spousal support and child support; and payment from a trust, guardian, or conservator. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The Arc strongly supports this legislation.

Housing – $99 Million Awarded for New Housing Vouchers for People with Disabilities

Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $98.5 million to 285 public housing authorities across the U.S. to provide new, permanent affordable housing vouchers to nearly 12,000 non-elderly people with disabilities. The vouchers will be provided through the Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program which assists non-elderly people with disabilities who are transitioning out of institutional or other segregated settings; at serious risk of institutionalization; homeless; or at risk of becoming homeless. Click here for a comprehensive list of awards, by state. Visit the Technical Assistance Collaborative resource page to learn more about this program and (when announced) upcoming opportunities for housing authorities to apply for additional funding.