CHN: The House Passes Funding Levels for Housing Programs

On June 14, the House overwhelmingly passed the Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations bill (H.R. 5516) by a vote of 406-22, setting funding levels for housing and community development programs for FY 2007. The total amount of $33.6 billion is less than is needed to fund all HUD programs at current services levels next year. There were winners and losers as well as programs that survived the Administration’s budget-cutting ax.
The House rejected the Administration’s request to cut Housing for Persons with Disabilities in half and Housing for the Elderly by over 25 percent. Instead it funded those programs slightly above 2006 levels. The House agreed to a floor amendment sponsored by Representatives Davis (D-AL) and Harris (R-FL) to put $30 million back into the HOPE VI program that the Administration’s budget eliminated. The program is used to demolish severely distressed public housing units and replace them with units for low-income families within mixed-income housing. The House went along with the Administration by cutting the Public Housing Capital Fund used to make improvements in public housing by $261 million (11 percent).

Programs whose funding levels were increased include: the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which provides assistance to states and local governments to expand the supply of affordable housing, up $186 million (11 percent); Homeless Assistance Grants, increased by $209 million (16 percent); Community Development Block Grants raised $162 million (4 percent); and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, up $14 million (5 percent).

HUD’s highly effective Section 8 voucher program received a slight increase in funding. Under the program, eligible families pay 30 percent of their income for rent and HUD pays the remainder. The level of funding for Section 8 could cover the cost of all authorized vouchers. However, the inefficient formula HUD has instituted in recent years to allocate the funds to public housing authorities and state agencies leaves some locales short-funded.

During floor consideration two amendments were offered. One offered by Representative Nadler (D-NY) which shifted $70 million from the technical assistance fund at HUD to the Section 8 program passed by a vote of 243-178. An amendment offered by Representative Frank (D-MA) would have preserved the availability of affordable housing in local communities by continuing the current practice of providing a tenant protection voucher to replace each unit lost when public housing is demolished or private buildings end their federal subsidy. It failed by a vote of 214-214.

The Senate has not yet begun to consider appropriations bills either in Committee or on the floor. Congress likely will not finish work on this and other appropriations bills until after the November elections.

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