Franken’s Homeless Students Bill Finds Powerful Co-Sponsor

U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) recently co-sponsored U.S. Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) bill, “The Housing for Homeless Students Act of 2012,” which may bring us one step closer to a day when formerly homeless students may no longer have to choose between attending school full time or living with a roof over their heads.                                                        

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), established in 1986, is responsible for most of the affordable rental housing produced nationwide. In the legislation behind this program, something called the “Student Rule” stipulates that full time students cannot live in an LIHTC low-income unit as head of the household, as a way to prevent scarce resources from being used to build college dormitories.

The “Student Rule” has led to disastrous effects for homeless high school and college students.  “High school students are too often faced with the very challenging choice between being a full time student […] or having safe housing […] but only progressing in high school on a part time basis,” said Elizabeth Hinz, Minneapolis Public Schools’ District Liaison for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students.  “Both are important for a basic foundation as a young adult.”

“The Housing for Homeless Students Act of 2012,” creates an exception to the student rule for people who have been homeless at any time up to five years prior to occupying a tax credit-financed apartment.  The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, of which Senator Snowe is a member.  Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN) are sponsoring the House version of this bill.