Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018 on November 13 to amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, which NMHC/NAA believe fundamentally changes the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program from an optional government program for private property owners to mandatory.
Dating back to the program’s establishment, Section 8 was designed to be optional in recognition of both private property owner rights and the compliance burden assumed by owners who willingly participate in the program. Senators Hatch and Kaine may attach this bill to one of the final must-pass bills at the end of the Congressional session. If so, this would be significantly disruptive for the multifamily industry.
Deciding to participate in the Section 8 Voucher Program is a business decision that private owners make with the full understanding and knowledge that there are compliance and administrative costs inherent to participating in the program. While many private sector owners choose to participate, others do not. Congress specifically made participation voluntary because of the regulatory burdens associated with the program. Making source of income a protected class under the Fair Housing Act puts the voluntary nature of the program in jeopardy.
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is an important tool designed to assist families in need of housing assistance, but it is a program that has been plagued with inefficiencies, onerous regulatory requirements and a flawed funding system for years. The inefficient and duplicative requirements include a required three-way lease between the provider, resident and the public housing authority, repetitive unit inspections, resident eligibility certification, and other regulatory paperwork. In addition, owners operating in several jurisdictions must interact with multiple Public Housing Authorities (PHA) which may have their own set of individual administrative procedures making compliance even more onerous. Collectively, the decision to invest resources and time necessary to comply with the regulatory requirements associated with government programs is a business decision made by private sector participants and should not be changed without appropriate review and consideration by Congress.
NMHC/NAA worked with Congress and the Administration to enact common sense reforms to the Section 8 program in the previous Congress as part of the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act (HOTMA), yet the industry is still waiting for some of those reforms to be implemented. Nevertheless, there is more that can be done to improve and streamline the Section 8 program.
As previously reported, Secretary Carson (pictured right with NMHC Chairwoman Sue Ansel at the 2018 NMHC Fall Meeting) announced in September that HUD was kicking off a listening tour to get a better understanding of why more apartment owners and managers choose to not participate in the housing choice voucher program. Several of our members, including former NMHC Chairman, Daryl Carter, participated in those sessions.
NMHC/NAA will continue to oppose legislation that would make source of income a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. Before Congress considers any changes to the Section 8 program, we believe lawmakers should conduct a thorough examination, including hearings, and further research that determines the implications of change to the program and specifically the cost of compliance on the private sector participants.