BURLINGTON, Vt., July 15 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders announced today that the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act passed the Senate on Thursday. The legislation provides a much-needed update to federal rental assistance programs, and builds upon the first ever funding of the National Housing Trust Fund earlier this year.
“Our country faces a very real housing crisis, especially for lower-income Americans,” Sanders said. “Stagnating wages simply have not kept up with the increasing cost of rental housing. That is why it is so important that we update rental assistance programs that literally keep a roof over the heads of millions of low-income American families.”
A minimum wage earner must work 112 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, just to afford the average Fair Market Rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. More than 7.2 million extremely low-income households spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, leaving very little for other necessities such as food and medicine.
The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act streamlines rental assistance programs that are proven to reduce homelessness and increase self-sufficiency. The reforms will reduce costs to taxpayers and allow state and local public housing agencies to do more with their limited funds to assist low-income families.
“While improving the rental assistance program is not going to solve our nation’s significant affordable housing challenges, it is an important piece of the puzzle,” Sanders said. “We must also build new housing that it affordable to low-income families.”
Sanders pointed to the first ever funding of the National Housing Trust Fund as a successful effort to increase the supply of affordable housing. In May, Sanders announced Vermont will receive $3 million from the Trust Fund, part of $174 million dispersed nationally to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable rental housing. Sanders introduced legislation in 2001 to create the Trust Fund – based on a model pioneered in Vermont – and then helped lead a 15-year effort to pass and fund it.
The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, which was approved by the House 427-0 in February, passed the Senate by unanimous consent.