When the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives reconvene after their August recess on September 8, it is likely they will only be in session for two weeks before they return home to campaign for the November elections. During this two-week period, Congress has important work to accomplish, with funding of federal programs into FY15 top on its agenda.
To date, the House and Senate have not enacted any FY15 appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) spending bill. The House passed its THUD bill, H.R. 4745 on June 10 (see Memo, 6/13). The Senate could not reach agreement on an amendment procedure for a package of spending bills, including its THUD bill, and therefore, was unable to pass S. 2438 (see Memo, 6/20). The FY15 fiscal year begins on October 1.
With so few working days left, Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government open and programs funded at FY14 levels. The CR is expected to last until the week of December 11. The post-election lame duck Congress will have to pass spending bills before the 113th Congress closes or pass another CR. How long a subsequent CR would last depends on the outcome of the November elections. If Republicans gain control of the Senate starting in January, they can force an extension of the CR into the next Congress when they could extract funding cuts or policy changes as part of the FY15 spending bills.
During the August recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), campaigning in his own re-election race, said a Republican-held Senate would force President Obama to “move to the center” by attaching policy restrictions to spending bills. “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” Senator McConnell said, according to media reports.
HUD’s housing programs’ costs will increase above FY14’s funding levels in FY15 because of rising rents and stagnant incomes of the households HUD’s largest programs serve. Any CR that provides FY14 funding past January 1 will require housing programs cuts that can result in fewer families served. NLIHC and our partners in the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding will strive to make sure that any CR that funds programs past January 1 includes “anomalies,” which are adjustments beyond the FY14 funding level, so that housing programs do not have to decrease the number of households served or the value or duration of subsidies provided.
Funding at FY14 levels will lock in the loss of 70,000 vouchers nationwide because of the sequester cuts in FY13 that were not restored in the FY14 HUD funding bill. Also, the White House will be forced to roll back its goal to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 if HUD’s homeless assistance grants do not receive the President’s request for a $301 million increase over the FY14 level.
A provision added to the House THUD appropriations bill during the floor debate would prohibit HUD from spending any funds to administer the National Housing Trust Fund. Senate supporters of the NHTF will have to make sure this provision does not make it into the final bill.
Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure
A top NLIHC priority for 2014 is extending the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). Since PTFA was enacted in 2009, renters have been protected from eviction when their homes have undergone foreclosure. An NLIHC survey of legal services attorneys and housing counselors in 2011 found that PTFA was effective in preventing evictions of tenants who were current in their rent, but whose landlords had lost their properties in foreclosure. See (http://bit.ly/WydPHV.) However, PTFA is due to sunset on December 31 unless Congress acts.
Bills to make PTFA permanent have been introduced in the Senate and House: S. 1761 introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and H.R. 3543 introduced by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) (see Memo, 11/22/13). However, it is unlikely that they will pass on their own, so advocates are seeking a legislative vehicle to which they can be attached before the current law expires. In the absence of a consensus on making PFTA permanent, NLIHC and our partners in the PTFA campaign are working on an extension of at least two years.
According to the National Housing Law Project, just 22 states and DC, plus Miami-Dade, FL and Providence, RI have stronger protections for tenants in foreclosed properties than are provided for by PTFA (http://nhlp.org/node/1341). In the other 28 states, renters at foreclosure would face renewed risk of immediate eviction, devastating to both the families who lose their homes and the communities in which in they live.
Advocates in these 28 states in particular should let the members of their Congressional delegations know that the PTFA must be extended to protect their constituents.
Rental Assistance Reforms
While there seems to be interest in the Congressional authorizing committees in reforming and improving HUD’s rental assistance programs, it is unlikely that any legislation will move or that even hearings will occur in the remaining days of the 113th Congress.
An amendment filed during the lead-up to the Senate’s consideration of its THUD bill, which ultimately did not occur, would have expanded the Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration to ten more public housing agencies. NLIHC opposed the amendment in order to protect residents from time limits and excessive rents, and because expansion should be carefully considered by the authorizing committees, not by hastily offering an amendment to an appropriations bill on the Senate floor. Even though the amendment was never considered because the underlying bill was not taken up, the issue of whether and how to grant MTW status to more than the 39 public housing agencies currently in the demonstration is an ongoing issue on Capitol Hill.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit
Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) advocates are hoping for an extension of the minimum 9% credit floor, which expired on December 31, 2013. Bills with numerous cosponsors have been introduced in the House and Senate to achieve this goal, as well as to create a new minimum 4% LIHTC credit floor. But partisan disagreements over amendment processes have prevented the Senate from considering its broad tax extenders measure, and the House’s plans to send an “economic package,” including some tax extenders, to the Senate this fall do not include the House’s bill for 9% and 4% credit floors.
Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act
Bills to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which expired at the end of FY13, have moved out of committee in both the House and Senate. However, S. 1352, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) (see Memo, 1/3) and H.R. 4329, sponsored by Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) (see Memo, 8/4) are significantly different from one another. Senator Cantwell’s bill does not contain provisions that would allow a privatization demonstration, or waiver of the Brooke rule, which keeps rents affordable to the lowest income households. Also, Senator Cantwell’s bill would reauthorize the Native Hawaiian housing and community development programs, while Mr. Pearce’s would not. It is unclear whether these bills can be reconciled during the remaining days of the 113th Congress.