Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Representatives Murphy and Biggert Reintroduce Section 811 Reform

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Representatives Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) have
reintroduced the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act (H.R.
5772).   The bill, which passed the House last year but never found
traction in the Senate, would reform the Department of Housing and Urban
Development’s (HUD’s) Section 811 Supportive Housing Program for Persons
with Disabilities. Section 811 provides housing for people with physical
or developmental disabilities or people with chronic mental illness who
are 18 years of age or older and have very low incomes (at or below 50
percent of the area median income).  Section 811 participants may live
in supportive housing units developed and owned by non-profit
organizations, or they may receive tenant-based rental assistance that
helps them rent decent, accessible and safe housing in the private
rental market.  Tenants pay 30 percent of their adjusted income
(approximately $200 per month) for rent which ensures affordability for
those receiving SSI benefits.
For years, HUD has treated the Mainstream Voucher program as traditional
Section 8 vouchers, administered by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) for
many different low income populations on their waiting lists.  Even
though these vouchers were supposed to go to persons with significant
disabilities who needed supportive housing, HUD did not put a tracking
mechanism into place to ensure that this occurred until 2005.
Disability housing advocates believe that many non-disabled people and
persons with non-significant disabilities (who could use traditional
Section 8 vouchers) were receiving Mainstream vouchers. This created
fiscal burdens for the small 811 program because renewal of the
Mainstream Vouchers must come off the top of the 811 budget every year.
For example, the FY 2009 budget requires that over $87 million be used
for renewal of Mainstream Vouchers. This would leave only $150 million
for the production of new units.
The bill will shift fiscal responsibility for the Mainstream Housing
Choice Voucher Program to the Section 8 budget where it belongs.
Although funded and renewed from 811 appropriations, these Mainstream
Housing Choice Vouchers have never created new permanent supportive
housing units and are not targeted to people with the most serious and
long-term disabilities. By shifting the Mainstream voucher funding to
the traditional Section 8 program, all Section 811 funds currently used
for Mainstream voucher renewal will be freed up for production of new
units via the Project-Based Contracts (PRAC) Demonstration.
Currently, only Section 811 funds can be used to construct housing units
for non elderly people with disabilities.  The new bill would re-write
the law to allow for other funds to be combined with Section 811
funding, thereby increasing the number of units built. The PRAC
Demonstration program will “fast-track” and sustain the creation of
thousands of new permanent supportive housing units every year by
leveraging new set-asides of supportive housing units in federal Low
Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties. The PRAC program will also
provide a rental subsidy to reduce rents to affordable levels for people
receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in a small but significant
percentage of the hundreds of thousands of units that are routinely
created every year through the LIHTC program administered by states and
local jurisdictions.
FMI: To read the bill or track its progress, go to

and search for bill number HR 1675.

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