February 10, 2011

Wyden, Merkley Bill Will Safeguard Stock of Affordable Housing

Legislation Uses Existing Funds to Keep Affordable Housing Units from Becoming Market Rate Housing

Washington, D.C. – In an effort to secure the pool of affordable housing units for low-income families, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) reintroduced legislation today to allow excess funds in the federal Section 8 program -- known as residual receipts -- to be used to keep current affordable housing stock from becoming market rate housing when contracts expire. The Affordable Housing Preservation and Revitalization Act allows for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to transfer the residual receipts to non-profit groups to purchase federal Section 8 housing with the requirement that the housing remain in the program and affordable to low-income residents.

“In this tough economy, homelessness has been particularly pervasive, making the affordable housing support that the Section 8 program offers families even more important,” Wyden said. “This bill allows HUD to tap into the program’s rainy day fund in order to shore up the stock of affordable housing. This creative solution uses existing funds to make sure that families in Oregon and nationwide can afford to remain in their homes.”

“Senator Wyden and I are working together on legislation to preserve and add affordable rental units in areas that are in great need of affordable housing options,” Merkley said.  “It’s an innovative strategy that puts unused funds to work protecting the affordable rental units that so many Oregon families depend on.  The current recession accentuates the need for urgent, creative action.”

“Preserving existing affordable housing is critical to solving our nation’s housing needs,” said Michael Bodaken, President of the National Housing Trust. “Many of the homes that will be saved and improved by this bill are in areas that are otherwise out of reach for low-income households. If these homes are lost from the affordable stock, many low-income elderly, disabled, and family households would lose access to jobs, health care, transit, and other essential opportunities and services. I commend Senators Wyden and Merkley for this legislation, and for their sustained commitment to affordable housing.”

The bill allows the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to access funds from residual receipt accounts to work in helping non-profit organizations purchase and renovate properties with expiring Section 8 contracts and secure the long-term affordability of those properties for low-income seniors, the disabled, and families. Access to these funds will provide a critical incentive for owners to repair aging properties and remain part of the affordable housing inventory. In Oregon, untapped residual receipt funds are estimated to reach as high as $10 million.

Section 8 is a federal program that provides rental assistance for low-income households in partnership with private owners who offer their properties at rents below market rate. Many low-income families and residents rely on the reduced rent to remain in their homes. The legislation will allow for incentives to keep affordable housing from becoming market rate housing, alleviating the risk of depleting the pool of affordable housing.