Congressman Cohen and Senator Rubio Reintroduce Housing Accountability Act

March 26, 2021
Press Release
Would force Section 8 landlords to address tenant complaints

MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today reintroduced the Housing Accountability Act, legislation that would hold property owners of low-income housing accountable for poor living conditions. Specifically, the legislation would require residents of private properties that have Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts to be surveyed twice a year to determine the existence of persistent problems with a property’s physical condition or management. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida reintroduced identical legislation in the Senate earlier this week.

The bill was first introduced in response to local and federal investigations in 2015 that found deplorable living conditions at several federally subsidized-housing properties owned by the Global Ministries Foundation (GMF), including the Tulane and Warren Apartments in Memphis and others in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Inadequate oversight by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) results in some property managers failing to meet their obligation to maintain safe and healthy living conditions for their tenants,” Congressman Cohen said. “The Housing Accountability Act provides for twice-yearly surveys of residents to determine the physical condition and maintenance needs of their homes. It also calls for a review of HUD housing policy to assure the best use of taxpayer dollars. I’m pleased to be working with Senator Rubio on this much-needed reform.” 

“I have seen firsthand how slumlords like Global Ministries Foundation prey on low-income housing residents while simultaneously stealing taxpayer dollars,” Senator Rubio said. “The living conditions in these complexes are not just substandard; they are despicable and inhumane. It’s time for Congress to hold slumlords accountable and protect those tenants of HUD housing.” 

Background: 

The Housing Accountability Act (HAA) codifies sanitation standards and requires the Performance-Based Contract Administrator (PBCA) of properties receiving Housing Assistance Payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer a semi-annual survey that allows tenants to report problems at those properties.

The Secretary of HUD would have the ability to refer properties for remediation or fine owners of neglected Section 8 properties based on the surveys and PBCA observation. The revenues generated from the fines may only be used to improve the conditions at the property or finance tenant relocation. Lastly, the HAA requires HUD to submit a report to Congress detailing the capital reserves for Section 8 properties and how these funds are used for purposes other than maintenance and property improvement. 

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