Sen. Cramer Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill to Create Affordable Housing Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and Chris Coons (D-DE), member of the Appropriations Committee, reintroduced their Choice in Affordable Housing Act. The bipartisan, bicameral bill would improve the federal government’s largest rental assistance program and create the Herschel Lashkowitz Housing Partnership Fund, named after former state senator and Fargo Mayor, Herschel Lashkowitz.

“Millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable housing, and with the cost of living on the rise, Congress should look to amplify existing federal housing programs,” said Senator Cramer. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill would enhance the efficacy of the Housing Choice Voucher program by reducing certain regulatory burdens, while establishing incentives to encourage more landlords to participate. It also increases funding for tribal programs and authorizes $500 million to create a Housing Partnership Fund named after former Fargo Mayor Herschel Lashkowitz, who dedicated much of his life to making affordable housing a reality for so many North Dakotans.”

“From my years serving Delaware as County Executive and Council President, I’ve seen firsthand the positive, life-changing impact that access to a decent, safe, affordable home can have for those trying to provide for their family,” said Senator Coons. “That’s why Senator Cramer and I are pushing for this legislation to increase the number of landlords who accept Housing Choice vouchers and expand access to rental assistance for low-income families. If we pass this bill, families in Delaware and across the nation will have more choices when they are looking for a home, while landlords will be better able to bring their properties into the Section 8 market.”

The Herschel Lashkowitz Housing Partnership Fund would set aside resources for Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to offer security deposit assistance to tenants and a signing bonus to a landlord with a unit in an area with less than 20 percent poverty. It would also direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide a bonus to PHAs for retaining a dedicated landlord liaison on staff.

“JCRC remains strongly supportive of the bipartisan legislation of Senators Kevin Cramer and Chris Coons—The Choice in Affordable Housing Act,” said Steve Hunegs, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC). “The JCRC is deeply proud that the Housing Partnership Fund component of the legislation is named for Herschel Lashkowitz. The 20-year Mayor of Fargo, Mr. Lashkowitz was a scion of the 150-year history of the Jewish community dating to territorial times. Born, raised and ultimately graduated from Fargo Central High School, Mr. Lashkowitz practiced law in Fargo and served in city and state government from 1954-1989. Mayor Lashkowitz presided over two major urban renewal projects in Fargo resulting in a new public library, City Hall and auditorium and public works improvement and expansion. Joining these health, cultural and civic endeavors was the construction of apartments for senior citizens and the disabled. Given the expansive nature of the Cramer-Coons legislation and the broad community vision of Mayor Lashkowitz, it is deeply meaningful to honor his memory and accomplishments in providing housing opportunities throughout our nation.”

“Fargo-Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness continues to support the Choice in Affordable Housing Act to build equable communities,” said John Campbell, Executive Director of the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness. “Eliminating or removing barriers for housing inspections, using data to set affordable fair market rents and supporting all veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. All will help strengthen relationships with landlords, moving forward with these effective strategies are best practices in ending homelessness. Thank you, Senator Cramer, and Senator Coons, for your continued work on this bill.”

Joining Senators Cramer and Coons are Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jerry Moran (R-KS). Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) leads the companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Background

In addition to enhancing the Housing Choice Voucher program, often referred to as Section 8 vouchers, and creating the $500 million Herschel Lashkowitz Housing Partnership Fund, the bill would:

  • Increase funding to the Tribal HUD- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program. To help renters on tribal land, the bill supports the Tribal HUD-VASH program for Native American veterans who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
  • Use neighborhood-specific data to set rents fairly. To require HUD to expand its 2016 rule requiring the use of Small Area Fair Market Rents to calculate fair rents in certain metro areas.
  • Reduce inspection delays. Units in buildings financed by other federal housing programs would meet the voucher inspection if the unit has been inspected in the past year. New landlords could also request a pre-inspection from a PHA prior to selecting a voucher-holding tenant that would be good for 60 days.
  • Refocus HUD’s evaluation of housing agencies. To encourage HUD to reform its annual evaluation of PHAs to promote an increase in the diversity of neighborhoods where vouchers are used. The bill also requires HUD to report to Congress annually on the effects of the bill.

The bill is endorsed by the National Affordable Housing Management Association, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, Habitat for Humanity International, National Association of Realtors, National Association of Home Builders, RESULTS Education Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, Mobility Works, National Association of Residential Property Managers, National Leased Housing Association, Institute of Real Estate Management, National Rental Home Council, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the National Multifamily Housing Council, the National Apartment Association, and the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing.

News Release

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