As many as one third of the roughly 20,000 youth who age out of foster care each year experience homelessness in the years after emancipation despite being eligible for a special category of housing vouchers, but a new bill aims to fix that.
Under current law, foster youth can get a housing voucher through the Family Unification Program (FUP) when they age out of the child welfare system at either age 18 or 21 (depending on state law).
The problem is only about 10 percent of state and local housing agencies around the country are allowed to give out FUP vouchers and the federal government distributes FUP vouchers to this small subset of agencies through a burdensome and irregular competitive notice process. The result is that many foster youth who age out of care are legally entitled to a voucher to help them cover the cost of rental housing, but can’t actually access their voucher because of where they live or when they reach the age of emancipation.
On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee will mark up H.R. 4300, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, which would fix this broken process and ensure youth aging out of foster care get the housing assistance they need. The bipartisan bill was introduced last week by Representatives Dean (D-PA), Bass (D-CA), Turner (R-IN), and Stivers (R-OH).
The bill would allow virtually every housing agency in the country to administer vouchers for foster youth who have aged out of the child welfare system, and would direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to distribute the vouchers whenever they are needed rather than through an irregular and complicated competitive process. These changes will make housing vouchers available to former foster youth no matter where or when they age out of care.
The bill also extends the maximum duration of a FUP voucher from three years to five years, with the two additional years of eligibility conditioned on participation in educational, training, or work-related activities.
CDF is proud to support the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, it’s time for Congress to make sure no more foster youth slip through the cracks as they age out of the child welfare system.