Passes Legislation and Holds “Housing for Heroes” Hearing
On September 12, 2012, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity approved by voice vote H.R. 6361, the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act. The legislation, introduced by Representative Joe Heck (R-NV), would exempt expenses related to a veteran’s aid and attendant pension payments from counting as income in determining eligibility and payments from HUD programs.
The cost of the bill would be offset by a change to the way utility allowances are calculated for HUD-assisted housing, mirroring legislative language from the draft Affordable Housing Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act (AHSSIA.)
Subcommittee Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL) indicated that the legislation would be considered on the House floor the following week.
On September 14, 2012, the same subcommittee held a hearing, “Housing for Heroes: Examining How Federal Programs Can Better Serve Veterans.” The hearing focused largely on issues related to H.R. 6361 and H.R. 6381, the Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) Act, which would authorize grants to qualified organizations to rehabilitate and modify the homes of disabled or low income veterans. Representative Al Green (D-TX), who introduced H.R. 6361, said that the “least we can do is make sure vets have housing appropriate to their needs when they return.”
The first panel featured three veterans: Cassondra Flanagan, Caesar Hill and Babette Peyton. Subcommittee Ranking Member Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) asked all three witnesses whether they thought the administration’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015 was realistic and attainable. Their responses follow:
- Ms. Flanagan said, “I do think it’s achievable. [It] shows belief and dedication and I 100% believe that with a few changes we’ll meet the goal by 2015.” She elaborated on the necessary changes, noting a need for improved employment options for veterans.
- Mr. Hill agreed with Ms. Flanagan and urged more support for housing programs, including additional outreach and a reduction in the amount of time it takes a veteran to receive a housing voucher.
- Ms. Peyton said that efforts to end veteran homelessness are moving in the right direction, but that it is already near 2013 and the 2015 goal might need to be revaluated.
The second panel featured witnesses from advocacy organizations focused on ending homelessness among veterans including Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Heather Ansley of VetsFirst and Baylee Crone of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness said in his opening remarks, “It is an extraordinary thing to solve a social problem. I want people to come away from this hearing understanding that we are on the verge of solving the problem of homelessness among veterans.”
There was limited time for questions due to votes. Representative Biggert said that she had heard that HUD has no tracking mechanism for HUD-VASH vouchers, and that HUD does not know whether the vouchers go to veterans. Mr. Berg confirmed that HUD knows that HUD-VASH vouchers are going to veterans; however, better information is needed to ensure that the vouchers go to the veterans with the most serious needs, those who would not be able to otherwise exit homelessness.
Click here for a copy of H.R. 6361.
Click here for a copy of H.R. 6381.
Click here for all witness testimony and an archived webcast of the September 14, 2012 hearing.
Click here for an archived webcast of the September 12 markup.