June 09, 2021

Van Hollen, Young Reintroduce Legislation to Boost Housing Mobility Vouchers, Increase Americans’ Access to Opportunity

Legislation Would Create 500,000 Housing Mobility Vouchers

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) reintroduced their legislation to increase housing mobility vouchers, creating 500,000 new vouchers to allow families to move to areas with greater opportunity. The Senators’ Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act will help improve outcomes for families with young children by increasing access to these vouchers and providing counseling services.

“Every parent knows the value in providing a safe and secure place for their child to call home. For young children, this need is especially dire. Stability at home helps promote their future success – in school and onwards. As we work to expand affordable housing and ensure that economic mobility is possible for all families, this bipartisan bill will boost access to housing vouchers that have already served as an effective and immediate solution. I was glad to see President Biden support this initiative in his budget, and I’m proud to continue working alongside Senator Young to increase opportunity for our young and most vulnerable,” said Senator Van Hollen.  

“The American Dream should extend to every American child, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Evidence clearly shows what happens when we empower families with young children to relocate to areas offering good jobs, quality schools, and safe neighborhoods: earnings grow, job vacancies are filled, poverty declines, and children more fully realize their God-given potential,” said Senator Young. “This bill draws on recent groundbreaking research to invest in housing mobility vouchers and customized relocation support services to improve life outcomes and strengthen Hoosier families, all while substantially reducing taxpayer expenditures on healthcare, public safety, and social services.”

The Senators’ legislation is supported by a wide group of experts and advocacy organizations including: NAACP, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Association of Social Workers, Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County, Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, Children’s HealthWatch, and Food Research & Action Center.

When a child grows up in a high opportunity area, research shows they are more likely to have successful life outcomes. Whether it be lower crime, better education, access to transportation, quality healthcare, or suitable housing, higher opportunity areas offer children a greater chance to succeed. This bipartisan bill recognizes that certain areas offer different opportunities and will increase mobility by allowing people to choose the best neighborhood for their families. In the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations package, Senators Van Hollen and Young secured the authorization and funding of their Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act. The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act would build upon their previous efforts by expanding this legislation – providing increased funds and making 500,000 more vouchers available over the next five years. President Biden’s budget includes $1.6 billion in funding for the expansion of Housing Choice Vouchers and $491 million for mobility-related supportive services to assist families to rent in areas of greater opportunity.

The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act puts a significant down payment on evidence-based housing mobility vouchers for the nation’s most vulnerable families with young children. The bill couples mobility vouchers with customized support services to help families escape the cycle of poverty and move to high opportunity areas.

Specifically the bill:

·       Creates an additional 500,000 housing vouchers over five years for low-income, high-need families with young children. Pregnant women and families with a child under age 6 would qualify for these new vouchers if they have a history of homelessness or housing instability, live in an area of concentrated poverty, or are at risk of being pushed out of an opportunity area. This includes families who are fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; families who are living in housing conditions that are dangerous or life threatening; and families who are living in units that are not accessible to a disabled family member.

·       Provides voucher recipients with a customized approach to mobility-related services that will enable a successful transition to opportunity areas for children, including access to counseling and case management services that have a proven track record of helping families move out of poverty.

·       Enables housing agencies to engage new landlords in the voucher program and connect families with information about housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods and community-based supports for families as they move.

Support for the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act

“We commend Senators Van Hollen and Young for this crucial bipartisan legislation to provide more options for safe and secure rental housing during this time when the affordable housing stock is decreasing, and families of every racial and ethnic minority are struggling. Housing stability has numerous benefits for children and families,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy.  “We look forward to working together to ensure this bill becomes a much-needed reality.”

“We believe the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2021 builds on the latest research evidence on the profound impacts of high opportunity areas on low-income children's economic mobility; we support the research-informed approaches outlined in the bill and believe it puts forward important resources and policies for improving children’s long-term outcomes,” said Raj Chetty, Opportunity Insights at Harvard University.

“The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act that Senators Van Hollen and Young introduced would protect many young children from hardship and provide critical resources they need to thrive, by helping their families afford stable homes in a neighborhood they choose,” said Sharon Parrott, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It’s a well-designed, evidence-based initiative that would make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in families with incomes below the poverty line.”  

“This bill will allow families with low-wages or unreliable incomes to stay stably housed and avoid homelessness,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We are grateful to Senators Young and Van Hollen for their vision and compassion. Children who are helped by this program will benefit throughout their lives.”

“Even before the pandemic, our nation was in the grips of an affordable housing crisis that forced three out of every four of America’s lowest-income families to make impossible tradeoffs between paying rent and putting groceries on the table or meeting their other basic needs. Ongoing structural racism, discrimination, and segregation in our communities exacerbates the challenges, impacting health outcomes, educational attainment, in some cases, life expectancy,” stated Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act is a critical first step toward housing justice by providing 500,000 families with young children the breadth of opportunities that start with affordable homes in safe, thriving communities with access to good schools, jobs, healthcare, and transit.”

“The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds and fully supports Senators Chris Van Hollen and Todd Young in their bipartisan introduction of the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act that would create 500,000 new housing vouchers,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers.  “As the nation’s largest professional social work organization, we are well aware of the fact that the most important support service for low-income families is safe and affordable housing.  Therefore, we welcome this legislation that will significantly increase the availability of housing vouchers and help to end the cycle of homelessness low-income families with young children too often experience.  The bill will also give these families access to neighborhoods where there are better opportunities – communities with stronger schools, better job prospects, and more readily available services to meet their basic bio-psychosocial needs.  NASW stands with the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign in supporting the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act and will offer our resources to help with its passage.”

"The Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery Country strongly endorses The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2021.   The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and evidence reported in countless studies confirm what we know-- housing stability is the cornerstone of the health and well-being of children and families.  Housing vouchers continue to be the most effective means of providing affordable housing.  Providing vouchers, counseling and case management services that will allow children to live in communities of opportunity, with access to good schools and close to where their parents work will enhance the quality of their lives and their prospects for attaining economic success,” said Barbara Goldberg Goldman, Affordable Housing conference of Montgomery County Co-Founder and Co-Chair.

“Our values are reflected in how we choose to invest our public dollars, and as we look to heal and restore our communities from the ravaging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing equity must be at the forefront. At the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, we know first-hand that opportunity starts at home and that housing mobility creates opportunities for families with low incomes to thrive and realize their dreams,” said Adria Crutchfield, executive director of the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership. “We are pleased to see a bipartisan effort to significantly expand the Housing Choice Voucher program through the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act, and I applaud Senators Van Hollen and Young for this leadership. This legislation is the kind we need to come out of this historic challenge stronger as a nation.”

“Early childhood is a critical window of brain and body development. Our Children’s HealthWatch research and my experience as a pediatrician show a stable home early in life is the foundation for good health,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, pediatrician and Co-Lead Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch. “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers give children and families a fair shot at healthy development during this important period and will have a positive impact on health for generations to come.”

“Finding affordable and stable housing is intrinsically linked to a family’s ability to meet all its basic needs, including putting food on the table,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center.  “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act represents good public policy with positive ripple effects.  Not only does the Act work to house low-income families with young children in neighborhoods with strong schools, better job prospects, and community assets like healthy food retail outlets, but it safeguards families from the multiple harms to nutrition, health and well-being emanating from homelessness, unaffordable housing and housing instability.  These types of policies are especially important during this unprecedented pandemic and its associated economic shocks, which are disproportionately impacting Brown and Black households.”

“Low-income children facing housing instability and growing up in neighborhoods of extreme poverty are more likely to struggle in school, more likely to experience adverse health outcomes, and less likely to climb the income ladder as adults,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Research clearly shows that Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers can dramatically improve the life trajectories of low-income children by expanding access to stable, affordable housing located in safe, well-resourced communities.  This legislation contains one of the most research-based and cost-effective policy tools available to the federal government to dramatically improve upward mobility for the next generation.”

“The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act will expand assistance targeted to families urgently in need and prove that poverty is a cycle that can be broken,” said Jessica Love, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Our network enthusiastically supports this bill and applauds Senators Young and Van Hollen for their leadership in working to ensure housing unstable families and children in our state and across the country have more equitable opportunities to thrive in all facets of life.”

“The Family Stability and Opportunity Voucher Act would provide greater choice to thousands of families who use Housing Choice Vouchers,” said Tess Hembree, Director of Congressional Relations for the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. “Senator Van Hollen and Senator Young’s efforts to authorize 500,000 new vouchers could open the door to better educational outcomes, healthcare, and economic mobility for low-income families.”