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Proposed Bill Would Increase Housing Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Published August 24, 2009

The bipartisan Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) at the end of July, would expand affordable housing options under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 811 program for people with disabilities.

The Section 811 program provides a benefit to individuals with disabilities in the form of housing vouchers. These “Section 8” vouchers help low income individuals afford housing by paying the difference between the rent and what the tenant can afford. Section 8 vouchers, paid to government-approved landlords, increase housing options for people who may otherwise not be able to afford to rent an apartment. The Section 811 program provides such vouchers specifically to individuals with disabilities.

According to a release from Senator Menendez’s office, the legislation would improve and expand HUD’s Section 811 program by:

• Increasing the number of available housing vouchers for people with disabilities and ensuring that vouchers continue to be used to help people with disabilities.

• Encouraging the integration of mixed-used developments into the program and allowing funds from Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the HOME program to be used.

• Extending the length of rental assistance contract terms from 20 years to 30 years for projects using Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

The bill has attracted many endorsements, including support from such organizations as the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the National Disability Rights Network and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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