The 113th session of Congress came to a close on December 16. In its final days, the Senate passed a tax extenders bill and confirmed dozens of President Barak Obama’s nominees, but failed to confirm the nominee for HUD PIH Assistant Secretary. Other unfinished business was extension of Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). Also on December 16, the President signed the bill that funds HUD and USDA programs for FY15.
On December 16, the Senate passed a bill to retroactively extend just for 2014, several expiring tax expenditures, including the 9% credit floor for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). The vote was 76 to 16. Support and opposition the bill was bipartisan.
Senate Committee on Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), the chamber’s top tax writer, voted against the bill saying it “doesn’t have the shelf life of a carton of eggs” and that “[r]etroactive tax bills like the one before the Senate…may satisfy Congress, but they leave workers, families, and businesses wanting. It’s time for Congress to do the hard work of tax reform.” The House passed the bill on December 3 (see Memo, 12/8). President Obama signed the bill on December 19.
The bill provides the minimum 9% credit to LIHTC projects allocated tax credits before January 1, 2015, but not necessarily placed in service. Without this extension, these LIHTC projects would have received a floating rate based on a formula that uses the federal cost of borrowing to establish the credit rate; for example, the December rate is 7.51%. However, the value of the one-year 9% credit floor for 2014 is limited. While it is good to keep the minimum within the larger package of tax extenders for future legislative action, the provision offers no immediate benefit because most LIHTCs in 2014 have already been allocated.
Senator Wyden’s floor statement on the tax extenders bill is at http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=b8a3beb4-98a4-416f-bd0d-62da0ef3016c
Hold on HUD Nominee Maintained
The U.S. Senate confirmed 69 Presidential nominees in the last days of the 113th Congress, but failed to confirm Lourdes Castro Ramírez to be the next HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing (PIH). Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) placed a hold on her nomination on November 12 and declined to lift the hold, preventing the Senate from voting on her nomination.
With the adjournment of the 113th Congress, the nomination will have to be resubmitted in the 114th Congress. The fate of the nomination in the new Republican led Senate is unknown.
Senator Grassley placed the hold because of concerns with HUD’s process for extending Moving to Work contracts for the 39 public housing agencies that currently participate in this demonstration, and because of high salaries for PHA directors. The hold was not based on an objection to the nominee herself.
On November 25, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supporting Ms. Castro Ramírez’s nomination. The letter asked him to “help to quickly move her nomination to the Senate floor for consideration…PIH is responsible for administering and managing over half of the HUD budget, and delivers a range of programs to over 4,000 housing authorities nationwide. Given the scope of the portfolio, it is urgent that this key policy and decision-making position be filled by a candidate of the caliber of Ms. Castro Ramírez.”
On December 15, NLIHC sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader McConnell, also urging a vote on Ms. Castro Ram´rez’s nomination. “Ms. Castro Ramírez has the extensive range of experiences needed to manage the array of programs under the purview of the Office of Public and Indian Housing. These programs, which represent more than three million HUD-assisted homes, are in the midst of the most serious budget challenges they have ever faced. The families residing in these homes, and the communities in which these homes are located, deserve a confirmed Assistant Secretary. Ms. Castro Ramírez will protect the federal investment in these homes and ensure that residents continue to have affordable and stable housing,” NLIHC’s letter said.
NLIHC’s letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/NLIHC-ltr_Castro-Ramirez.pdf.
The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/CLPHA-ltr_Castro-Ramirez.pdf.
Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act to Lapse
Another important piece of unfinished business is the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). Protections provided by the PTFA expire on December 31, 2014 and were not extended by this Congress, despite efforts by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to do so. The PTFA, authorized in 2009, ensured that renters living in foreclosed homes could stay in their homes for at least 90 days or through the term of their lease, whichever was greater.
Republican objection to PTFA extension prevented it from advancing. The objection took two form. One was purely political. The last PFTA extension was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation, which many Republicans oppose. The second objection was to the federal nature of the law and the belief that tenant protections are for state law to provide.
NLIHC, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and the National Housing Law Project will work to encourage lenders and regulators to voluntarily keep the policies in place that have been developed in response to the enactment of PFTA in 2009. In addition, the status of state laws that provide protections that match or exceed PTFA will be monitored and updated.
FY15 Appropriations Bill Signed into Law, Focus Shifts to FY16
On the last day of the session, December 16, President Barack Obama signed the omnibus spending bill into law, providing funding through FY15 for programs under the jurisdiction of 11 of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, including those funding HUD and USDA programs (see Memo, 12/15).
Attention now turns to what is expected to be a tough FY16 budget year. Advocates are urging Congress to reverse budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA). These caps put strict limits on nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending, including HUD’s housing and community development programs. If the caps stay in place for FY16, funding for NDD programs will be level with FY15 amounts, which would mean cuts for programs that annually increase in cost, such as housing. If Congress decides to spend more than the caps allow, which is unlikely, the BCA requires cuts by a sequestration process.
Advocates are urged to sign onto a letter organized by NDD United to reverse the caps and replace them with responsible deficit reduction policies. The deadline for signing on to the letter is January 5. To read the letter and sign on, see http://nlihc.org/article/join-ndd-united-signing-letter-protect-hud-and-all-ndd-programs.
NLIHC’s budget chart is at, http://nlihc.org/issues/budget.