Washington, DC – On April 25, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act, which would create an additional 250,000 housing vouchers specifically designed for low-income families with young children to expand their access to neighborhoods of opportunity with high-performing schools, strong job prospects, and other resources. This legislation could largely eliminate homelessness among families with young children, as well as substantially reduce the number of children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty. This policy solution has been championed by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, which worked with the bill’s sponsors to get the concept introduced into legislation.
The legislation prioritizes these new vouchers for low-income pregnant women and families with children under age 6 who either have a recent history of homelessness or housing instability, or live in an area of concentrated poverty (or are at risk of being displaced from an opportunity area). These new vouchers would be coupled with counseling and services that have a proven track record of supporting parents and helping families move out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.
Research shows that when children in poor families grow up in neighborhoods with low poverty, quality schools, and low crime, they are significantly more likely to attend college, less likely to become single parents, and more likely to earn dramatically more as adults over the course of their lifetimes. This helps break cycles of generational poverty and produces a positive taxpayer return. Research also shows that low-income students perform better academically and close achievement gaps faster when housing assistance enables them to live stably in opportunity neighborhoods with lower-poverty schools.
“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.
“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.”
WHAT CAMPAIGN LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE FAMILY STABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY VOUCHERS ACT
“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.”
“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.”
Read the press release from Senator Van Hollen here.