September 17, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Preserve Affordable Housing in Oregon

The Affordable Housing Preservation and Revitalization Act Uses Existing Funds to Maintain Affordable Housing Stock

Washington, D.C. - Continuing their fight to keep low-income families in their homes and off of the street, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D- Ore.) today introduced legislation to preserve the Section 8 affordable housing on which many in Oregon rely on. The Affordable Housing Preservation and Revitalization Act will help to keep housing currently included in the federal Section 8 program from becoming market rate housing when contracts expire.

"Homelessness is a concern in the best of times," Wyden said. "In tough economic climates it becomes even more necessary to help families weather the storm. This legislation will use the untapped resources already in the system to keep existing homes affordable now and preserve them for the foreseeable future."

"Stable homes provide the foundation for strong families," said Merkley. "By putting existing resources to work, we can bolster affordable housing programs that provide a lifeline for low-income families and strengthen our communities. This legislation protects affordable housing units that mean the world to hundreds of Oregon families."

This legislation will allow the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to transfer accumulated funds from residual receipt accounts to non-profit organizations that buy properties with expiring Section 8 contracts as long as the organizations commit to keeping the properties as affordable housing. Residual receipt funds are surplus funds not distributed each year that are held to cover unforeseen and extraordinary expenses. In Oregon alone, estimates are that the amount of untapped residual receipts is as high as $10 million.

The Section 8 program subsidizes landlords who offer their properties for rent at prices below market rate. Many low-income residents rely on this reduced rent to remain in their homes. As contracts expire, landlords have the option are of remaining in the program or seeking higher returns in the regular housing market. This legislation will allow for incentives to keep affordable housing from becoming market rate housing and will help to keep families in their homes.