On October 12, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) confirmed his plan to combine three appropriations bills and bring them to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. On October 13, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to begin consideration of these three bills on October 17.
The three bills are the FY12 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (T-HUD) bill, S. 1596; the Agriculture, Rural Housing, and Food and Drug Administration bill, H.R. 2111; and the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill, H.R. 2596.
There is bipartisan support within Senate leadership for combining the three bills into a “minibus” spending package. The Senate may choose to move more of the eleven appropriations bills it still needs to pass in minibus packages as well. The House is still debating whether they will agree to move final appropriations bills as an omnibus bill.
The Senate T-HUD bill, S. 1596, would cut HUD funding by 10% below the FY11 level (see Memo, 9/23). The Senate HUD allocation is lower than the House T-HUD subcommittee’s HUD allocation. The Senate bill provides higher levels of funding for many HUD programs than the House bill, but does so by rescinding HUD funding from reserves and other HUD accounts.
The Senate bill, as currently written, would cause households receiving Project-based Section 8 and tenant based vouchers to lose their rent assistance and likely their homes.
S. 1596 would fund the Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) account at $9.419 billion, an amount that HUD now reports is insufficient to renew all contracts with owners of subsidized properties. HUD’s original request for the program was $9.429 billion. In addition to this requested amount, HUD also regularly relies upon funds in the Housing Certificate Fund account to make up the difference between the PBRA allocation and the actual cost of contract renewals. But the Senate bill also would rescind the funds from the Housing Certificate Fund, leaving no additional funds with which to potentially supplement the PBRA contracts.
The Senate bill would also not provide sufficient funding for Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) contract renewals. Contract renewals would receive $17.14 billion, the amount that the Administration originally requested. HUD resubmitted its estimate for the cost of renewing all existing vouchers, which is now significantly higher. Without increasing contract renewal funding, HUD staff report that as many as many as 100,000 voucher families may experience problems with renewing their vouchers in 2012.
S. 1596 would also underfund the Public Housing Capital Fund, potentially reducing the number of public housing units that could be occupied. The Senate bill would provide $1.87 billion, 22% below the Administration’s request of $2.4 billion and 8% below FY11. HUD estimates that accumulated capital needs of public housing units total more than $25 billion.
With high unemployment and increased levels of poverty, incomes of people who receive rental housing assistance are going down, which increases the amount needed to subsidize their rents. There is also less turnover of vouchers due to the poor economy.
Additional housing programs would be cut significantly under the Senate bill. The House bill would also underfund the three main HUD programs serving extremely low income households: TBRA, PBRA, and Public Housing.
However, the Senate bill does include several positive provisions. The bill would authorize a Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to preserve public housing, which NLIHC supports with some technical clarifications. The bill would also maintain a $50 million set aside for the Resident Opportunity and Supportive Services (ROSS) program, which the President’s request and the House Subcommittee bill would eliminate. The bill would also provide $75 million for new Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (VASH) vouchers and restore funding for housing counseling. S. 1596 also includes policy provisions such as more targeted use of Tenant Protection vouchers and voucher cost savings measures that were proposed in the President’s budget (see Memo, 9/23).
NLIHC issued a Call to Action on October 13 urging advocates to call their Senators to oppose S. 1596 unless sufficient funds are provided for all rent assistance programs.