CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, September 19, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 6361, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on September 10, 2012, by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) and referred to the Committee on Financial Services. The committee held a mark-up session on September 12, 2012, and ordered the bill to be reported by voice vote.
H.R. 6361 would modify certain formulas for calculating subsidies to families that receive federal housing assistance.
Specifically, the bill would exclude in-home aid and attendance care benefits paid to severely disabled veterans for their service connected disabilities from the income calculation the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses to determine public housing or Section 8 rental assistance payments. This income exclusion would prevent HUD from treating these disability payments as income that could pay for housing since the payments are only provided to cover for necessities like assistance with bathing, feeding, and dressing.
The bill would also eliminate the over-subsidy of Section 8 utility allowances by instructing public housing authorities (PHAs) to calculate payments based on family size instead of dwelling size. Section 8 housing vouchers are awarded based on the size of family to be housed, but recipients can up-size to a larger dwelling if they pay the difference in the rents out of pocket (i.e. a one-person voucher can be used to rent a 2-bedroom apartment). However, since PHAs calculate utility allowances based on dwelling size, tenants in those up-sized dwellings get larger utility allowance subsidies than intended. Section 3 eliminates that over-subsidy for all voucher holders except the elderly, the disabled, and families with children under 18, and also allows individuals affected by the change to petition for a hardship waiver from the change. The bill would also require HUD to publish utility consumption data on a regular basis for PHAs to use in calculating utility costs.
The bill would also award grants to qualified non-profit organizations to rehabilitate and modify the primary residences of disabled or low-income veterans. (Some examples in the bill of eligible uses of grant awards include installing wheelchair ramps, widening exterior and interior doors, and accommodating the functional limitations that result from having a disability.)
H.R. 6361 is designed to reform how HUD provides housing assistance for disabled veterans, improve utility subsidy calculations, and award grants to non-profits for the rehabilitation of disabled or low-income veterans housing.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 6361 would reduce discretionary spending by $270 million over the 2013-2017 period.