Congress Must Expand the Availability of the Successful Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program

New report urges passage of the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) to remove cumbersome red tape and improve the program’s accessibility

Augusta, Maine (Monday, October 25, 2010) The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) today released “Housing Choice Vouchers: Stabilizing Lives and Strengthening Maine’s Economy,” the latest edition in the long running MECEP Choices series which published its first report in 1994. Written by Dan Coyne, Esq. and Robyn Merrill, Esq., policy analysts with MECEP and Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP), respectively, the report urges expanded federal funding for the program and passage of the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) to streamline program requirements, establish a stable and more cost-effective funding formula and reduce administrative burdens for housing agencies and private owners.

“Unfortunately, the demand for vouchers far exceeds the supply,” Coyne and Merrill write. “Nearly 12,800 Maine families are currently on the voucher waiting list, with an average wait time of more than two years. Still more Mainers need a voucher but cannot get on a waiting list because almost half are closed.”

A survey conducted this past summer for the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition found that while 12,221 vouchers are currently in use in Maine, 12,795 families remain on waiting lists, with an average wait time of 26 months to receive assistance.

“The Voucher Program is a proven success,” Coyne and Merrill conclude. “It assists families with low incomes, the elderly and the disabled secure safe housing in the private market. Because of vouchers, these families experience increased economic security. Others benefit as well. Small businesses benefit, from landlords who can fill vacancies and receive rent, to local employers whose employees are more economically secure and thus more productive, to the local economy when voucher recipients use their freed-up resources to purchase goods to feed or clothe their families.”

The release of the report coincides with the premiere at 1:00 p.m. today of a new, Maine-based documentary on the success of the voucher program, “Along the Way Home,” at the 2010 Maine Affordable Housing Conference at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. A joint venture of MECEP, MEJP, Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, Maine People’s Alliance, Homeless Voices for Justice, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Community Housing of Maine and Maine Association of Public Housing Authority Directors, the sponsors will also launch a new website today,