May 4, 2023

Young, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Increase Access to Opportunity, Strengthen Hoosier Families

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced the bipartisan Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act, legislation to help improve outcomes for families with young children by increasing access to housing mobility vouchers and providing counseling services. This bill will create 250,000 new housing mobility vouchers to allow families to move to areas with greater opportunity.

Evidence shows that empowering families with young children to choose communities with good jobs, quality schools, and safe neighborhoods leads to a decline in poverty and an increase in a child’s potential to succeed,” said Senator Young. “Our bipartisan bill draws on this research to invest in housing mobility vouchers and customized support services to help improve life outcomes and strengthen Hoosier families, all while reducing taxpayer expenditures on health care, public safety, and social services.”

“A safe and secure home is a critical foundation for a child’s success. That’s why we need to do more to make sure working families can find an affordable place to live – and what’s more, we need to ensure affordable housing is available in neighborhoods with strong schools and good-paying jobs. This legislation builds on a tried-and-true solution for housing affordability and economic mobility – further investing in housing vouchers and support services to give more families the ability to make their home where it’s best for them,” said Senator Van Hollen.

When a child grows up in a high opportunity area, research shows they are more likely to have successful life outcomes. Whether it be lower crime, better education, access to transportation, quality health care, or suitable housing, higher opportunity areas offer children a greater chance to succeed. This bipartisan bill recognizes that certain areas offer different opportunities and will increase mobility by allowing people to choose the best neighborhood for their families. In the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations package, Senators Young and Van Hollen secured the authorization and funding of their Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act. The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act would build upon their previous efforts by expanding this legislation – providing increased funds and making 250,000 more vouchers available over the next five years.

The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act also puts a significant down payment on evidence-based housing mobility vouchers for the nation’s most vulnerable families with young children. The bill couples mobility vouchers with customized support services to help families escape the cycle of poverty and move to high opportunity areas.

Specifically, the bill:

  1. Creates an additional 250,000 housing vouchers over five years for low-income, high-need families with young children. Pregnant women and families with a child under age six would qualify for these new vouchers if they have a history of homelessness or housing instability, live in an area of concentrated poverty, or are at risk of being pushed out of an opportunity area. This includes families who are fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; families who are living in housing conditions that are dangerous or life threatening; and families who are living in units that are not accessible to a disabled family member.
  2. Provides voucher recipients with a customized approach to mobility-related services that will enable a successful transition to opportunity areas for children, including access to counseling and case management services that have a proven track record of helping families move out of poverty.
  3. Enables housing agencies to engage new landlords in the voucher program and connect families with information about housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods and community-based supports for families as they move.

Bill text is available here.

The Senators’ legislation is supported by a wide group of experts and advocacy organizations including: Alliance for the Advancement of Infant Mental Health, American Association of Service Coordinators, Autism Society of America, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Boston Medical Center, BPC Action, Caring Across Generations, Catholic Charities USA, Center for Community Progress, Center for Disability Rights, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s HealthWatch, Children’s Trust Fund Alliance, Church World Service, Coalition on Human Needs, Community Change Action, Community Solutions International, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd of U.S. Provinces, Council of State Community Development Agencies, Disability Rights Advocates, First Focus Campaign for Children, Futures Without Violence, Habitat for Humanity International, Healthcare Anchor Network, Housing Assistance Council, Housing Justice Center, Housing on Merit, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Low Income Investment Fund, Lutheran Services in America,á, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Affordable Housing Management Association, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association for County Community and Economic Development, National Association of Social Workers, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Community Action Partnership, National Community Development Association, National Disability Institute, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National HIV/AIDs Housing Coalition, National Homelessness Law Center, National, Housing Law Project, National Housing Resource Center, National Leased Housing Association (NLHA), National Low Income Housing Coalition, National NeighborWorks Association, National Rental Home Council, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, National WIC Association, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, Parents as Teachers, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Prosperity Indiana, Public Advocacy for Kids, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, RESULTS, The Kelsey, Union for Reform Judaism, and ZERO TO THREE.

“We believe the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act builds on the latest research evidence on the profound impacts of high opportunity areas on low-income children’s economic mobility; we support the research-informed approaches outlined in the bill and believe it puts forward important resources and policies for improving children’s long-term outcomes,” said Raj Chetty, Opportunity Insights at Harvard University.

“Early childhood is a critical window of brain and body development. Our Children’s HealthWatch research and my experience as a pediatrician show a stable home early in life is the foundation for good health,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, pediatrician and Co-Lead Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch. “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers give children and families a fair shot at healthy development during this important period and will have a positive impact on health for generations to come.”

“We can’t effectively address hunger without addressing its root causes, including housing instability. That’s why we fully support the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. “This critical piece of legislation would help build brighter futures for children and families by tearing down systemic barriers that lead to inequality. We call on lawmakers to support this bill to ensure everyone has the foundation and resources they need to thrive.”

“Low-income children facing housing instability and growing up in neighborhoods of extreme poverty are more likely to struggle in school, more likely to experience adverse health outcomes, and less likely to climb the income ladder as adults,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Research clearly shows that Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers can dramatically improve the life trajectories of low-income children by expanding access to stable, affordable housing located in safe, well-resourced communities.  This legislation contains one of the most research-based and cost-effective policy tools available to the federal government to dramatically improve upward mobility for the next generation.”

“The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds and fully supports Senators Chris Van Hollen and Todd Young in their bipartisan introduction of the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act that would create 250,000 new housing vouchers,” said Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C. CEO of the National Association of Social Workers. “As the nation’s largest professional social work organization, we are well aware of the fact that the most important support service for low-income families is safe and affordable housing. Therefore, we welcome this legislation that will significantly increase the availability of housing vouchers and help to end the cycle of homelessness low-income families with young children too often experience.”

“The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act will expand assistance targeted to families urgently in need and prove that poverty is a cycle that can be broken,” said Andrew Bradley, Policy Director of Prosperity Indiana and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Our network enthusiastically supports this bill and applauds Senators Young and Van Hollen for their leadership in working to ensure housing unstable families and children in our state and across the country have more equitable opportunities to thrive in all facets of life.”

“With exorbitant rents and increased homelessness in many communities, our nation is in the grips of an affordable housing crisis that forces three out of every four of America’s lowest-income families to make impossible tradeoffs between paying rent and putting groceries on the table or meeting their other basic needs. Ongoing structural racism, discrimination, and segregation in our communities exacerbates the challenges, impacting health outcomes, educational attainment, and in some cases, life expectancy,” stated Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act is a critical first step toward housing justice by providing 250,000 families with young children the breadth of opportunities that start with affordable homes in safe, thriving communities with access to good schools, jobs, healthcare, and transit.”