CHN: Senate Approves Funding Levels for Housing Programs
On July 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed by voice vote the Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations bill that sets FY 2007 funding levels for HUD housing and community development programs. The total amount of $36.6 billion is $3.1 billion more than the funding level for FY 2006, $2.3 billion more than the President requested and $3 billion more than the House passed in June for FY 2007.
The Section 8 voucher rental assistance program, HUD’s largest program, received $15.9 billion or $500 million more than funded in FY ’06. Of this, $10 million is set aside for the Family Unification Program that provides vouchers to families whose lack of adequate housing is a primary factor leading to children being separated from their families. Further, the bill would overturn the flawed formula HUD instituted in 2004 to determine how agencies administering the program are reimbursed. Rather than using a 3-month snapshot from 2004, reimbursement to local agencies will be based on costs associated with the most recent consecutive 12 months.
The Committee rejected the President’s low numbers for public housing programs. The Senate committee funded the Public Housing Capital Fund at $2.46 billion, or $282 million more than requested by the President. The Public Housing Operating Fund was funded at $3.66 billion, $96 million over the President’s level. The Committee also dropped restrictions in the President’s bill that would provide tenant protection vouchers only when the tenant’s unit is demolished or converted to market rate. Currently vouchers are issued for all units no longer available, including those temporarily vacant.
The Committee rejected the Administration’s request to cut in half funding for Housing for Persons with Disabilities and to shrink Housing for the Elderly by over 25 percent. Instead it funded those programs at $240 million and $750 million, slightly above 2006 levels. It also agreed to provide $100 million for HOPE VI, a program that the Administration would have eliminated. Under HOPE VI, severely distressed public housing units are demolished and replaced with units for low-income families within mixed-income housing.
Other programs whose funding levels were increased over FY 06 levels include: the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which provides assistance to states and local governments to expand the supply of affordable housing, up $208 million (12 percent); Homeless Assistance Grants, increased by $184 million (14 percent); Community Development Block Formula Grants, raised by $166 million (4 percent); and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, up $9 million (3 percent).
It is unlikely that the Senate will bring this bill to the floor before it recesses for the November election. When FY 2007 begins on October 1, 2006, funding for unfinished appropriations bills will go forward under a Continuing Resolution that Congress will pass before the September 29 recess target date. Congress will return after the election to finish its work on appropriations bills.