NEWARK, NJ – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, applauded the unanimous passage of his Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA). The bill, which was approved by the Senate last night and is heading to the President’s desk, streamlines and reforms federal programs to expand affordable housing opportunities and reduce homelessness.

“This legislation builds on the successes of our federal housing programs and makes smart changes to expand access and opportunity,” said Sen. Menendez. “In a state like New Jersey, where finding an affordable place to call home can be terribly difficult, HOTMA will make essential improvements so that more families can find affordable housing and achieve a higher quality of life. I am pleased to see the Senate move so swiftly to pass this critical bill.”

Sen. Menendez introduced the Senate version of HOTMA in June with Sens. Tim Scott, Chris Coons and Roy Blunt. The House of Representatives unanimously passed this legislation in February.

The bill aims to:

  • Expand access to higher opportunity areas through “project-based” vouchers. These vouchers are attached to specific housing units, and will allow families to rent units in areas with lower crime and poverty and with higher-achieving schools. The owners of these housing units contract with public housing agencies to rent to low-income families, allowing the families to live in low-poverty neighborhoods, which has been shown to improve children’s rate of college attendance and long-term earnings.
  • Help address homelessness. The bill would allow housing agencies to use more project-based vouchers to help veterans, the elderly and the homeless. In addition, the bill updates the rules for inspecting units that vulnerable families with tenant-based vouchers wish to rent, which would allow families to move into units more quickly, as well as protecting them from an eviction if the agency found the units to violate housing-quality regulations and suspended payments to the owners. The bill also strengthens voucher assistance for former foster children, who face a high risk of homelessness.
  • Strengthen work incentives. The bill encourages work by delaying rent increases for tenants who start employment or whose earnings rise because they get better-paying jobs or boost their hours.
  • Preserve public housing and improve residents’ quality of life. Agencies would be given more flexibility in using funds for needed renovations in public housing.
  • Reduce administrative burdens for housing agencies and private owners of housing units. The bill streamlines the rules for determining tenants’ rents, allowing agencies and owners to direct their energies elsewhere, in areas that would benefit tenants more, such as providing supportive services and maintaining assisted developments.
  • Update the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. The bill updates the HOPWA program, which provides housing assistance and services to individuals with HIV/AIDS and their families, to better matching funding for areas to their current level of need.
  • Streamline Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance for condominiums. The bill would make more condominiums eligible for FHA insurance and would streamline FHA recertification standards.
  • Bolster rural housing programs. Through an expedited loan process for the USDA’s single family guaranteed loan program, the bill would increase access to homeownership for low- and moderate- income families in rural areas.

“This bill takes a common-sense approach to improving our nation's critical affordable housing programs,” said Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Senators Menendez, Scott, Blunt, and Coons, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families will be better able to access the help they need to find an affordable place to call home. At a time when Congress seems more polarized than ever, it is heartening to see Senators from both sides of the aisle come together to unanimously enact important, substantive legislation that will streamline and improve affordable housing programs."

"We would like to acknowledge and thank Senator Menendez for sponsoring this legislation which will help public housing authorities across the country provide affordable housing,” said John T. Mahon, Executive Director of the Bayonne Housing Authority and Vice Chair of the Housing Committee, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).

“This common sense legislation is a significant step forward to help reduce homelessness and hardship for millions of families struggling to pay the rent and keep a roof over their heads. It will strengthen key low-income housing programs and provide more flexibility to help boost children’s access to higher opportunity neighborhoods, reduce administrative burdens, and address much-needed housing repairs to improve the quality of life for families, seniors and people with disabilities. It is an example of the broad support on both sides of the aisle for strong and effective rental assistance programs, and we congratulate the bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate that championed its passage,” said Barbara Sard, Vice President for Housing Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Senator Menendez has done tremendous work to see H.R. 3700 move forward, and we're thankful for his support. Condominiums often represent an affordable option that's just right for first-time and low-to-moderate income homebuyers. Unfortunately, overly-burdensome restrictions on condo financing have for too long put that option out of reach for many creditworthy borrowers. This legislation meets those restrictions head on, putting the dream of homeownership back in reach for more Americans,” said National Association of Realtors President Tom Salomone.