Washington, DC – On December 18, 2019, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act, which would create an additional 500,000 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. The half-million new vouchers created through this legislation would be phased in over five years at 100,000 per year.
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.
Leading national organizations from the housing, education, health, civil rights, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, criminal justice, child welfare, and faith-based sectors have come together through the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign to advocate for more robust and equitable federal housing policies. Earlier this year, the campaign released its national policy agenda, “Within Reach,” which calls for a significant increase in rental assistance, a major expansion of the supply of deeply affordable housing, and emergency financial assistance to keep people in crisis stably housed.
WHAT CAMPAIGN LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE FAMILY STABILITY AND OPPORTUNITY VOUCHERS ACT
“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.”
“Our nation is in the grips of an affordable rental housing crisis, forcing 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. Because of longstanding housing segregation, discrimination, racism and other factors, when families do receive assistance, they often have few choices about where to live – impacting everything from health outcomes, educational attainment and income,” stated Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “I applaud Senators Todd Young and Chris Van Hollen for introducing the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2019 to provide 500,000 of America’s lowest-income 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.”
“The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act introduced by Senators Young and Van Hollen will give hundreds of thousands of children a better chance of long-term success by helping their families afford housing in neighborhoods with quality schools and other opportunities that promote healthy child development and improved outcomes as adults,” said Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “This legislation is important to giving many children in low-income families a better start in life.”
“The National Education Association (NEA) applauds Senators Young and Van Hollen for introducing the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act of 2019, which will offer crucial assistance to struggling families with school-age children,” said Lily Eskelsen García, President of the National Education Association. “This bill will help keep students on track, ensure that they can attend school regularly, and provide the opportunity for an education that sparks students’ curiosity and motivates them to learn. We must do everything we can to end homelessness and make sure all students have the learning resources and tools they deserve. This is a step in the right direction.”
“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.”
“Housing instability is one of the biggest barriers to individual economic prosperity. Too many families are struggling and their children are missing basic needs because rent is too high,” said National League of Cities (NLC) President Joe Buscaino, councilmember, Los Angeles. “NLC applauds Senators Chris Van Hollen and Todd Young for the bipartisan Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act. Innovative and data-driven proposals like this will help make local leaders part of the solution to housing instability and homelessness. It has become clear that housing stability at an early age leads to better outcomes for health, job security, and economic mobility for our nation’s residents. The housing policy choices we make today will have a generational impact on America’s cities, towns, and villages – we must commit to creating that affordable housing future together.”
“This bill will allow families with low-wages or unreliable incomes to stay stably housed and avoid homelessness,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We are grateful to Senators Young and Van Hollen for their vision and compassion. Children who are helped by this program will benefit throughout their lives.”
“Finding affordable and stable housing is intrinsically linked to a family’s ability to meet all its basic needs, including putting food on the table,” said Jim Weill, President of the Food Research & Action Center. “The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act represents good public policy with positive ripple effects. Not only does the Act work to house low-income families with young children in neighborhoods with strong schools, better job prospects, and community assets like healthy food retail outlets, but it safeguards families from the multiple harms to nutrition, health and well-being emanating from homelessness, unaffordable housing and housing instability.”
“We commend Senators Van Hollen and Young for this crucial bipartisan legislation to provide more options for safe and secure housing during this time when the affordable housing stock is decreasing and families of every racial and ethnic minority are struggling,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “We look forward to working with this bipartisan coalition of U. S. Senators to make this vision a reality.”
“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 500,000 new housing vouchers,” said Dr. Angelo McClain, 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 bill will also give these families access to neighborhoods where there are better opportunities – communities with stronger schools, better job prospects, and more readily available services to meet their basic bio-psychosocial needs. NASW stands with the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign in supporting the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act and will offer our resources to help with its passage.”
“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 Jessica Love, Executive 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.”
To download the fact sheet about the Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act, click here.
To read the full text of the legislation, click here.
To read the press release from Senators Van Hollen and Young, click here.