CHN: Transportation-HUD Bills Lock in Voucher Losses; Senate Bill Includes Higher Funding Levels in Other Areas

The Senate FY 2015 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bill provides approximately $1 billion more for HUD programs than the bill (H.R. 4745) the House passed on June 10. However, some programs fared better than others, and concern among advocates remains that even the higher funding levels in the Senate bill (S. 2438) are not in line with the growing need.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a comprehensive chart showing funding levels in the two bills for many different programs under HUD, and also compares the bills to the President’s budget and past enacted levels. Of particular note are the following programs:

The Public Housing Capital Fund: The House bill would decrease funding by $100 million from FY 2014, whereas the Senate bill would increase funding by $25 million over last year. The President’s budget had requested a $50 million increase over last year. Both bills include $15 million in first-time funding for the new Jobs-Plus Pilot program, designed to increase employment and income of public housing residents, short of the President’s requested $25 million.

The Public Housing Operating Fund: The House bill includes level funding of $4.4 billion. The Senate version is slightly better at $4.475 billion.

Community Development Block Grant Formula Grants: The House and Senate bills largely rejected a $230 million cut in the President’s budget, and with small cuts left these grants roughly level funded.

Homeless Assistance Grants: While the President requested a $300 million increase, the House bill is flat funded. The Senate bill includes a $40 million increase over last year.

Tenant Based Rental Assistance: In 2013, sequestration cuts eliminated roughly 72,000 housing vouchers for low-income families. Congress restored funding for about half of those vouchers in 2014. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, however, both bills would not only lock in the loss of vouchers under sequestration, they would make the situation worse: the House bill would result in a loss of 80,000 vouchers, with the Senate bill resulting in a loss of 76,000 vouchers.

Also of concern are several amendments that passed with the House version of the bill. One such amendment, offered by Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL), would ban issuing Section 8 housing vouchers for levels above 120 percent of an area’s fair market rental value. The amendment passed by 1 vote, 210-209. Another amendment, offered by Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) and passed by voice vote, would prohibit the Department of Housing and Urban Development from administering the National Housing Trust Fund. Although funding for the Trust Fund is not subject to the annual appropriations process, the program is managed by HUD. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, if this amendment is not removed in negotiations between the House and Senate, funds directed to the Trust Fund in FY15 could not be administered by HUD.  Advocates will keep an eye on similar amendments in the Senate and will work to remove these amendments when Congress meets to resolve differences in their respective bills.

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