Bill to Provide Housing Assistance to Disabled Passes House

Bill to Provide Housing Assistance to Disabled Passes House

With bipartisan support, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1675, the “Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2009,” which expands housing assistance for those with severe disabilities, including mental illness.

Introduced in March 2009 by Connecticut Congresswoman Judy Biggert and Congressman Christopher Murphy, the bill reauthorizes the Fiscal Year 2010 HUD Section 811 program, the only federal program that produces accessible and affordable supportive housing vouchers for non-elderly people with disabilities. It aligns the program with other federal, state, and local funding sources, allowing non-profit sponsors to more easily leverage additional capital through means such as the low-income housing tax credit. It also simplifies more than 400 pages of guidelines and delegates grant authority to state and local housing authorities. Finally, the bill calls for a new demonstration project that is estimated to generate as many as 3,000 new units of low-income supportive housing.

PRACTICAL POINTER: Key highlights of H.R. 1675 include the following:

  • Repeals HUD’s authority to provide tenant-based rental assistance directly to eligible persons with disabilities.
  • Authorizes appropriations for such assistance under Section 8 (rental voucher program) in FY 2010.
  • Revises the requirement that all units in housing assisted by capital advances and project rental assistance contracts to be made available for occupancy by very low-income persons with disabilities for at least 40 years.

It also requires:

  • Initial contracts with the sponsor of a project assisted with any low-income tax credit or with any tax-exempt housing bonds to have an initial term of not less than 360 months and to provide funding for 60 months.
  • A lease between a tenant and a housing owner to be for at least 12 months.
  • The HUD Secretary to: (1) carry out a project rental competitive demonstration program to expand the supply of supportive housing for non-elderly adults with disabilities and with extremely low-incomes or for extremely low-income households that include at least one disabled person; and (2) establish a minimum percentage of capital advances per fiscal year for multifamily projects.

The bill is similar to H.R. 5772, which passed the House last year, but was not considered by the full Senate. H.R. 1675 is now waiting Senate action. For more background information, see the Online Exclusive, “Several Groups Supporting Legislation for More Section 811 Housing Funds.”