Two congressmen from both parties came together on the Housing Bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - Two Missouri Congressmen held a joint news conference Monday praising bipartisan efforts to pass the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. The act amends the United States Housing Act of 1937. President Obama signed it into law on July 29.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Missouri, held the news conference to show that Republicans and Democrats can work together in Congress.

"What we have demonstrated is that when you work together, if you have a Republican and a Democrat working together and not fighting each other then we can make progress," Cleaver said.

The bill will:

  • save money- cuts program costs by more than $300 million over 5 years
  • improvements to the Family Unification Program (FUP): the bill makes changes to make FUP a more flexible tool for assisting former foster children. It extends age of eligibility from 21 to 24 and increases time the time of assistance to 36 months. 
  • strengthen and supports for low-income veterans (Sections 403 and 404): the bill includes provisions that are focused on preventing low income veteran families from becoming homeless, while providing relief for those who are homeless.
  • strengthen work incentives (Section 102): by delaying rent increases for families with rental assistance when their earnings rise.

The Cleaver and Luetkemeyer said the bill saves the tax payers money related to costs of the current program.

They said the new program: improves efficiencies within the programs, enhances local efforts to empower low income populations and facilitates greater private-sector participation in affordable housing. 

Luetkmeyer said this bill will create an incentive for people to work hard to get off welfare.

"One of the things with Speaker (Paul) Ryan's better ways agenda is to come up with ways to incentivize people to get off of welfare and one of the things we are looking to do is what we've just done with this bill. What happens sometimes when someone has a job and they are getting a raise, sometimes that raise kicks them out of all the programs," Luetkemeyer said. 

David Hayes, executive director of the Marshall Housing Authority, said the act will help the transition from public housing to Section 8 vouchers into conventional housing.

"Yes, also under this bill housing authorities are going to be able to, if a families income goes up, they will be able to either charge the family up to fair market rent or they have six months to find some place to live. So it gives them an opportunity to go in stages from public housing Section 8 to the private market," Hayes said.

Cleaver said when tenants have the opportunity to move to safe areas with good school then it increases the number of individuals from public housing to college. He said when tenants move to better neighborhoods, their voucher accompanies them. 

Cleaver said this bill wil move silently and it will be hard for people to track its success in terms of its impact on individuals.