U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, says his bill — H.R 4145 — would require recipients of Section 8 housing subsidies to work at least 20 hours a week, while limiting their reliance on the federal housing program to five years. The work requirement would be for household members that are over the age of 18.
The proposed bill also would ban Section 8 housing vouchers to any unit that houses individuals convicted of state or federal felonies and ensure that all recipients of Section 8 housing vouchers are in the country legally. It also would require tenants to comply with existing laws and ordinances.
"I would argue it's not appropriate to encourage or allow people to take something that was supposed to be temporary help for the truly needy and turn it into a permanent way of life with respect to housing, which was the reasoning for the time limits," Chabot said.
Chabot told HousingWire there's a strong probability the bill will not make significant progress within Congress this year.
The congressman said exemptions are included in the bill to ensure seniors or homeowners facing disabilities or other hardships are exempted from the new time limit and work requirements.
Rep. Chabot officially introduced the bill back in March and believes it's unlikely to make it to a vote before the current legislative session ends. If that happens, he intends to reintroduce the legislation in the near future.
"It's a program that I believe needs to be overhauled," said Rep. Chabot. "It needs to be reformed. This bill does not do away with the program, but it does make some important changes."
Section 8 has traditionally provided rental assistance to low-income families that obtain vouchers to subsidize rents on their housing units. The program then mails the subsidies directly to landlords.
Donna White, a spokeswoman for HUD, said the agency already has provisions ensuring Section 8 housing subsidies are only sent to the landlords of residents who are in the country legally.
For example, she said if two residents are legally in the country, the subsidies sent for that residence will only be allocated to those parties. So if only two of four parties staying in a residence are legally qualified, the money is sent only on behalf of them.
"Our job is to make sure that housing laws as enacted by our lawmakers are followed," said Laura Feldman with Region 5 of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "We do not comment on impending legislation," she said when asked about the bill.
For Chabot, the bill is about ensuring there are provisions in place to protect taxpayers' interest in the social security net.
"We have a significant safety net in the country and this is part of that," said Chabot. "Folks who need Section 8 vouchers for a limited period of time ought to have access to them and people who really need them."
He added, "Taxpayers are overburdened with spending on a lot of wasteful and counterproductive programs, and I think a common sense bill is needed in which citizens are helping people who truly need the help."