House Majority Leader Introduces MTW Bill

On April 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced HR 5137, the “Moving to Work Reformation and Expansion Act of 2016.” McCarthy, a former member of the Financial Services Committee, was joined by 17 co-sponsors on the bipartisan bill (16 Republicans, 1 Democrat), including Representatives David Valadao (R-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Robert Dold (R-IL), Edward Royce (R-CA), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), Stevan Pearce (R-NM), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Charles Fleischmann (R-TN), Stephen Knight (R-CA), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and French Hill (R-AR).

HR 5137 would re-designate Moving to Work (MTW) as a permanent program, removing all references to it as a demonstration.  The bill modifies the statutory purpose of the program to promote 1) economic independence for residents, centered around employment opportunities; 2) flexibility and cost-effectiveness by allowing housing authorities to design and implement various approaches to providing and administering housing assistance with the aim of reducing costs to achieve greater cost-effectiveness in federal expenditures; and 3) housing choice for low-income families.

It would expand the MTW program to an unlimited number of qualified PHAs, though it would exclude troubled agencies. The bill calls for a minimum requirement of 25 approved applications to participate in the program per year, and participation in the program is approved for no less than 10 years. Of the approved applications, no less than 10 per year are reserved for small and rural housing authorities that administer less than 6,000 housing voucher and public housing units. Existing MTW agencies could continue to operate under their existing agreements or convert to the new program, however existing MTW agencies would automatically transition to the new MTW program when their current agreements expire.

The bill includes a detailed process by which housing authorities may apply to participate in the MTW program.  It specifies that HUD may review, approve and decline applications, and that housing authorities must establish a hardship exemption process, a public review process for proposed policy reforms, and an informal administrative hearing process for tenants. The bill also includes extensive granular level instructions regarding annual housing authority budget and reporting requirements. The annual budget plans must include descriptions and justifications for all new regulatory and policy reforms, as well as projections of the effects these changes may incur.

HR 5137 requires HUD to annually review each housing authority’s activities and determine its impact, effectiveness and progress toward meeting its program goals. It requires standardized metrics to be reported by housing authorities to HUD, including the number of new families receiving housing assistance; the per-unit value and administrative cost of housing assistance delivered; and the household incomes, and change in incomes, of work-eligible tenants. HUD must also make publically available all reports on each participating MTW agency with public comments. HUD must review and report to Congress on the program every five years, and the Government Accountability Office must review the program every eight years.

HR 5137 was referred to the Financial Services Committee for further action.