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JOHNSON STATEMENT ON RENTAL HOUSING ASSISTANCE HEARING

December 11, 2012

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) held a hearing on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental housing assistance programs. The Committee heard from HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra B. Henriquez.
 
Below is Chairman Johnson’s statement as prepared for delivery:
 
“I call this hearing to order. 

“I would like to welcome the Honorable Sandra Henriquez once again to the Committee for a hearing entitled ‘Proposals to Streamline and Strengthen HUD’s Rental Housing Assistance Programs, Part II.’  

“Millions of American families struggle every day to afford a roof over their heads.  Currently, a person with a full-time job needs to earn about $18.50 an hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental at the national average.  This is an amount far above the minimum wage or the income provided by Supplemental Security Income. Affordability is not just a problem in the largest cities in the country.  The Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment Commission, for example, has 3,800 families – nearly twice the number  the agency currently serves – on the waiting list for housing assistance.  

“HUD’s Section 8 Voucher and Public Housing rental assistance programs help over 3 million households, including low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children find safe, affordable housing.  This assistance is funded by the federal government through HUD, and delivered locally through a network of local and state public housing authorities, or PHAs. 

“Despite the vital role these programs play in our national safety net, they face a number of challenges.  These include complex administrative procedures, aging buildings in need of revitalization, and federal funding constraints that have local agencies struggling do more with less.  The strains on local agencies have become so difficult some PHAs have turned down HUD-VASH vouchers for homeless veterans – or even shut down completely – due to lack of funding to administer the program.

“Given these challenges, and the nation’s fiscal position, it is essential that our federal programs operate effectively and efficiently.

“Earlier this year, Senator Menendez’ Subcommittee held a hearing to gather stakeholders’ recommendations for improving these programs.  Many of these focused on common-sense ideas that have been considered in both House and Senate Section 8 voucher reform bills in recent years, such as: 
 
·         streamlining housing inspection schedules,
·         simplifying rent calculations, and
·         improving PHAs’ ability to provide new housing opportunities through the use of project-based vouchers.
 
“Some of these suggestions would also streamline processes in HUD’s Section 8 Project-Based rental assistance programs.
 
“We have invited Assistant Secretary Henriquez here to share the Administration’s recommendations on this important topic.   I look forward to learning where there may be consensus around common-sense reforms that will strengthen the Section 8 and public housing assistance programs for our families, local partners, and taxpayers.
 
“With that, I turn to Ranking Member Shelby.”
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