I would like to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing to discuss needed reforms to the Section 8 housing voucher program.
Today, over 1.5 million low-income households nationwide receive Section 8 housing assistance. The program serves at least 60,000 low-income families in my State of New Jersey.
Despite the large number of families the Section 8 program serves, thousands of families remain on waiting lists of up to three years for these vouchers because of a lack of funding. Funding, however, is not the only obstacle to improving the success of the Section 8 program.
In fact, securing a Section 8 voucher does not guarantee that a family will actually find housing. Nationally, only 68 percent of families that receive these vouchers are able to find suitable housing. In many areas, particularly in New Jersey, where vacancy rates are very low, there is a severe shortage of Section 8 units. For instance, in Gloucester County, New Jersey there are 3,300 families on the Section 8 waiting list, but there are only 2,400 Section 8 units in the county. Furthermore, New Jersey has the second highest housing costs in the nation, which makes it more challenging for families to afford housing even with a voucher.
Mr. Chairman, in addition to reforming the Section 8 program, we need to significantly invest in the production of new low-income housing as outlined under the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act. I know that this issue is outside the realm of this hearing, but I do think that increasing production will improve the success of the voucher program.
Mr. Chairman, I want to commend you for putting forth a comprehensive proposal that will no doubt improve the success of the housing voucher program. Allowing Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to increase their voucher payment standard to 120 percent of the Fair Market Value will help voucher holders who live in high cost areas. This proposal will also expand opportunities for disabled voucher holders who generally have higher housing costs.
Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased that your proposal also authorizes the Welfare to Work vouchers program. Though small, this program has been very successful in helping families transitioning from welfare to work find affordable housing. The Welfare to Work vouchers program has also sparked collaboration between public housing authorities and welfare and workforce agencies and has lead to very important partnerships.
Mr. Chairman, in addition to helping low-income families secure housing, your legislation will also provide public housing authorities with the tools they need to help these families become self-sufficient. Allowing voucher holders to participate in the Family Self Sufficiency program, which helps families save for educational activities and homeownership, will help more low-income families attain these goals.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you to make these goals achievable.