Housing Bill H.R.3700 Passes Unanimously!

Bethan Johnson
February 5, 2016

On Tuesday, February 2, 2016 the House of Representatives did something it hasn’t done in recent memory: passed a bill unanimously. While a significant event in and of itself, this vote is particularly important because it meant the passage of a sweeping piece of bipartisan legislation that will help millions of families and individuals live in dignity by increasing the availability of safe and affordable housing.

The unmitigated support of H.R. 3700, The Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act, is a key step for the House of Representatives and our nation because it brings America one step closer to guaranteeing people’s essential right to housing and lays the groundwork for future cooperation in the House.

H.R. 3700 is a piece of common-sense legislation that specifically addresses the current crisis in the affordable housing market. Key features of the legislation and its approved amendments include:

  • Shortening extremely long waiting-lists for public housing by limiting housing assistance for those with incomes above 120% of the poverty line.
  • Reducing wait times for public housing units by expediting inspections on voucher-rented units, while guaranteeing the same safe and decent standards previously required.
  • Making more housing vouchers available to those in need by allowing conditional approvals on units in which non-life threatening deficiencies have been found, mandating their repair within one month.
  • Working to end our nation’s homelessness crisis, particularly as it relates to veterans, by streamlining homelessness and housing assistance programs, as well as requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs to give Congress annual reports on homelessness and the housing assistance needs of veterans.
  • Addressing the often under-discussed issue of rural housing instability and creating the Multifamily Housing Revitalization Program to provide affordable rural housing and alter regulations around loans programs to allow more families in rural areas to be home owners.

In addition, the bill addresses the specific needs of our nation’s most vulnerable: improving the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program, preserving public housing assistance standards for persons living with disabilities, and protecting laws for dependent and child care income deductions.

The passage of H.R. 3700 is a success for advocates not just because of the bill itself, but also because of the creation and discussion around it. This bill exemplifies what positive changes Congress can make when it sets aside dogma in favor of common-sense legislation.

Bipartisan almost from its inception, the bill united both parties toward a common goal: promoting the common good. The discussions on the floor of the House were respectful and filled with praise for the bipartisan efforts of members; even when amendments failed or disagreements cropped up, representatives refused to close themselves off to debate or hold the entire bill hostage.

In essence, the House of Representatives chose to govern, and we will all benefit from that decision. This is the behavior we need and expect from Congress, and we hope that this bill will set them along a better path this year.

While advocates should look at the events of Tuesday night with excitement, the work is not complete. The Senate has yet to take up this issue or put forth a companion bill. Without such a bill, the great attempts at progress made by House will never have the opportunity to help millions. It is critical that we build on the momentum of the House and push the Senate to draft and pass its own version of this bill so that these vital reforms to our nation’s housing policies take effect as soon as possible. In doing so, we will ensure the comfort and stability of a safe, affordable and decent home for millions of people, which, as Pope Francis tells us, “represents the most precious human treasures….a crucial place in life, where life grows and can be fulfilled, because it is a place in which every person learns to receive love and to give love.”

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