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Public Statements

Section 8 Voucher Reform Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

SECTION 8 VOUCHER REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 12, 2007)


Mr. CHABOT. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I would just note that I don't think we are doing those kids living in section 8 housing any favors by encouraging a life or a lifestyle of living in section 8 housing. I think we're doing them a great disservice.

And I want to thank the gentleman from California for his efforts to bring more accountability and responsibility to the section 8 program, a program that, let's face it, is in need of fundamental reform.

Madam Chair, this is a very straightforward and commonsense amendment, and again, I want to commend the gentleman for offering it. It would simply place a time limit, one that I believe is generous, on able-bodied individuals currently receiving housing assistance through the section 8 program.

Under current law, there are no time limits. Those on section 8 can remain on section 8 for as long as they qualify.

Is that fair to the taxpayers? No. Is it fair to the section 8 recipients who become trapped in a life of dependency or to their children? I don't think so. Is it fair that the current lack of time limits prevent those on the waiting list, who may have fallen on hard times and are genuinely looking for a temporary helping hand, from receiving help? I don't think so.

Madam Chair, I would submit that the current lack of time limits isn't fair to anyone.

We've seen the positive effects that time limits and work requirements can have on social programs. We need look no further back in history than the 1996 Temporary Assistance For Needy Families, or the welfare reform law, that reformed the old welfare system, a system that had trapped so many into a life of dependency and poverty. And the old welfare system bears a remarkable resemblance to the section 8 program. And I think that's just unacceptable.

We can do better in this country than section 8 housing and condemning both adults and children to the conditions that they have to live in, in my community in Cincinnati or communities all over the country. Section 8 housing is not the type of lifestyle that I think we want to condemn those people living in them or their children to.

And I don't think the taxpayers ought to be required to pay for this subsidized housing forever in some cases.


Mr. CHABOT. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

This is one of three amendments that I am offering this evening, two of the three with a couple of my colleagues, one Mr. Miller from California and Mr. Hensarling from Texas, that would encourage fundamental reforms in the section 8 program.

When we committed ourselves to welfare reform, it was the understanding that the program should no longer be a taxpayer-funded handout but should instead offer people a way out of poverty, helping them obtain job and education skills that are needed to become ultimately self-sufficient. Ending welfare's cycle of dependency has cut the welfare rolls in half, promoted individual responsibility, and saved billions of tax dollars in the process. Sadly, current housing programs closely resemble the failed welfare policies of the past. Like the old welfare programs, the section 8 housing program, unfortunately, discourages work and allows people to stay, in fact, encourages them to stay on the program, oftentimes indefinitely. It is also too often mismanaged by local governments or local housing authorities.

Unfortunately, this bill does not address those issues but instead expands the program to 100,000 new section 8 vouchers at the cost of approximately 2.4 billion taxpayer dollars over the next 5 years. That is 100,000, approximately, more recipients that get a chunk of the rent that is ultimately going to be picked up by their fellow taxpayers and ultimately, in my view, doesn't do the people that become dependent upon this good in the long term. That is 100,000 more recipients who don't have to work to stay in the program, and that is 100,000 recipients that are being supported by the American taxpayers for as long as they like since section 8 now imposes no time limits on the beneficiaries.

I represent most of the city of Cincinnati and its western suburbs and a few townships in Butler County, Ohio. Too many neighborhoods in my district have had to witness crime, despair, and hopelessness that are inherent in a government program that asks virtually nothing of its recipients, that encourages dependency rather than responsibility and waste, unfortunately, rather than work. Whether it is the funding provided by the Federal Government or mismanagement of the program by local governments and agencies, section 8 has failed those who use it and those who pay for it: the American taxpayers.

My amendment is straightforward. It would simply stop throwing good money after bad and seeks to prevent more Americans from falling victim to a life of dependency on the government. My amendment would simply prohibit the dollars this bill authorizes from being spent on the 100,000 new vouchers that this legislation would create.

It is also important to point out that the dependency that section 8 has created is so great that there are long waiting lists to get vouchers. Why? Because many of those who gain access to the program ultimately don't leave. They don't really have an incentive to. The average stay is about 7 years.

Madam Chairman, if we simply put time limits and meaningful work requirements in the program, as the amendments that I have offered with Mr. Miller and Mr. Hensarling would do, there wouldn't be a need to create more vouchers because people would be moving through the system, moving toward independence and a better life, and that nondependence on the government is what every American should want.

Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. CHABOT. That being the case, Madam Chair, I give myself such time as I have remaining.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman is recognized for 1 1/2 minutes.

Mr. CHABOT. Madam Chair, I would just like to reiterate the fact that I don't think we're doing either the children or the people that have become dependent on section 8 housing any favors by allowing, number one, the area that we covered in the last amendment, people to remain on section 8 housing indefinitely. I think that the time limit that's been proposed in the previous amendment is certainly a step in the right direction. The amendment that we have following this goes to a work requirement, which I think is also very reasonable in a program such as this.

I think encouraging people to remain dependent upon the government in the conditions that oftentimes we see in section 8 housing is doing no favor for those families, and that's why I think this is an appropriate amendment, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. CHABOT. I thank the gentleman for yielding. And I thank the gentleman from Texas for his efforts to bring more accountability to the section 8 program. It's much needed and long overdue.

As welfare reform has shown us, the section 8 program should not become a way of life. It should be a helping hand, a way out of poverty. Ending the welfare cycle of dependency that has trapped so many has cut the welfare rolls in half, promoted individual responsibility and saved billions of tax dollars in the process.

One of the primary engines that continues to drive the civic welfare reform is the requirement that those in the program must work, and that's all that this amendment does. To be clear, the Hensarling-Chabot amendment would simply require all able-bodied individuals who have received section 8 for more than 7 consecutive years to work. I don't see anything at all mean-spirited about that. I certainly don't see anything bigoted about that to say that if somebody is receiving tax dollars, they ought to be required to work, to do something in consideration for the tax dollars that are being paid to help that person live while they need that assistance.

So the amendment, again, as the gentleman indicates, exempts those that are under 18 years of age, that are over 62 or blind or disabled, and those already exempt under TANF, and single parents of children under six. The amendment benefits the taxpayer and those in the section 8 program.

I would urge my colleagues to vote for this amendment. It requires work, and I think that's a good thing.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Texas still controls a half minute.


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