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June 29, 2015

Senate Spending Bill Deeply Cuts HOME, Does Not Raid NHTF

The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its FY16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill on June 25 by a vote of 20 to 10. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) voted with all 16 Committee Republicans in support of the bill.

The bill would cut HOME funding from FY15’s $900 million to just $66 million in FY16. Just five years ago, in FY10, HOME was funded at $1.8 billion. The block grant program is used to provide rental production, rental assistance, and homeownership assistance.

According to HUD, if HOME were zeroed out in FY16 and not funded at the President’s requested level of $1.06 billion, there would be a loss of an estimated 38,665 affordable housing units (16,045 homebuyer units, 15,099 new or rehabilitated rental units, and 7,521 owner-occupied homes rehabilitated for low income homeowners), and 8,813 fewer families would be assisted with HOME tenant based rental assistance.

The House’s THUD bill would cut HOME by $133 million, and would empty the National Housing Trust Fund to make the HOME program flat funded for FY16. NLIHC is extremely pleased that the Senate THUD bill does not raid the NHTF program to backstop cuts in other programs.

THUD Subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced an amendment that would have increased the bill’s funding levels for HOME, Community Development Block Grants, public housing capital, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and HUD’s lead hazard and healthy housing programs. The amendment would also have provided new funding for vouchers for domestic violence victims. The amendment failed on a party line vote of 14 to 16.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) also offered an amendment to increase HOME funding and noted that Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Udall (D-NM), joined him in offering his amendment.

Because of the severe 93% cut to HOME, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill is able to sufficiently fund several other housing programs. The bill would:

• Provide sufficient funding to renew existing housing choice vouchers.

• Allocate $75 million for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH).

• Allocate $20 million for 2,500 Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers.

• Increase voucher administrative fees from $1.530 billion in FY15 to $1.620 billion in FY16.

• Increase funding to renew project-based rental assistance contracts for 12 month terms for calendar year 2016 by appropriating $10.826 billion.

• Increase the public housing operating fund to $4.5 billion from $4.440 billion in FY15.

• Increase funding for homeless assistance programs to $2.235 billion from $2.135 billion in FY15.

• Provide an additional $2 million for the Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities program.

The bill provides flat funding for Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA), the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly Program, the Office for Healthy Housing and Lead Hazard Control, and HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

In addition to the enormous cut to HOME, the bill decreases funding for Community Development Block Grants from $3 billion to $2.9 billion. It also cuts the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative from $80 to $65 million in FY16.

To compare funding levels in the Senate THUD Appropriations bill, the House THUD Appropriations bill, and President Obama’s budget request, see NLIHC’s updated chart: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16HUD-USDA_Budget-Chart.pdf

The Senate THUD bill would also increase the number of public housing units that could convert their subsidy streams under the Rental Assistance Demonstration to either project-based rental assistance or project-based vouchers from 185,000 to 200,000.

The Committee also included a massive expansion of participation in the Moving to Work (MTW) program from the current limit of 39 public housing agencies to 339 in FY16. Remarkably, the expansion does not include any reforms to the MTW program, which currently allows PHAs to establish rent amounts without regard to income, implement time limits and work requirements, and serve fewer households.

TAKE ACTION

The deep cut to HOME and other programs results from the unnecessary budget sequestration caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011. In order for housing programs to receive the funding they need operate successfully, the spending caps must be reversed!

Call your Senators today and:

• Ask them to oppose the THUD budget bill because it all but eliminates the HOME program. While this bill is not expected to head to the full Senate for a vote any time soon, this is an important message to relay.

• Ask them to come to a budget deal that reverses the spending caps of budget sequestration.

• Ask them to increase funding for the HOME program and other housing programs without raiding the NHTF.

To contact your Senators’ offices by phone, call the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351 or go to NLIHC’s website and enter your zip code in the “Contact Congress” box at the bottom right of the screen.

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