On April 5, the House released its FY12 budget resolution, which would cut federal spending to below FY08 levels for FY12 through FY15. These cuts would be achieved by reducing non-security discretionary spending through elimination of programs deemed duplicative.
A budget resolution sets an overall spending framework for Congress to follow, and approving a resolution is the first step in the FY12 appropriations process. In a non-controversial budget year, both the House and Senate would pass their respective resolutions and then agree to a resolution that sets spending and taxing policy limits. Then, appropriators begin crafting detailed departmental spending priorities within the budget framework.
In FY11 the House and Senate did not agree on a budget resolution and Congress still has yet to pass an FY11 funding bill (see related article in this issue of Memo). With the lengthy FY11 negotiations representing the disparate positions of the two bodies of Congress, the House and Senate are not expected to agree upon an FY12 budget resolution.
The house Committee on the Budget marked up and passed the resolution on April 6. The House is now expected to bring the budget resolution to the floor the week of April 11.
Unlike budget resolutions passed by Congress in prior years, the House FY12 budget proposal includes policy positions on rental housing assistance that would significantly change the nature of federal housing programs.
In the document describing the House budget proposal, “The Path to Prosperity,” the Budget Committee says it would impose work requirements on recipients of federal housing assistance, to “encourage recipients to lead lives of increased self sufficiency.” The proposal would also change permanent affordable housing resources to transitional housing resources by implementing time limits. NLIHC opposes imposing such requirements on households eligible for federal housing assistance and opposes changing permanent housing into transitional housing.
The Budget Committee characterizes housing assistance as federal “welfare” and rolls back spending on those programs. The House Budget Committee’s two central concerns about affordable housing are that it is “dysfunctional” and costly. “Housing for low income Americans remain[s] dysfunctional,” writes the Committee in its budget proposal. The Committee also sounds an alarm over the growth of safety net programs, saying that these programs have increased by 33% since 2006. The report does not reference the increases in the rate of inflation or in the need of low income households during that period.
The budget document includes contradictory statements regarding housing including that the increasing funding for safety net programs would strain the programs to the “breaking point.” The Budget Committee argues that “America needs a strong safety net,” but says that increasing funding for programs will take those programs in the wrong direction.
Conservatives are using the “housing as welfare” rhetoric as well. On April 6, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the March report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs (see Memo, 3/4). A panelist from the Heritage Foundation submitted testimony categorizing 69 federal programs as welfare. These programs include HUD’s rental housing and capital programs and its Community Development Block Grant program. The testimony also portrayed Department of Agriculture rural housing programs and Department of Commerce economic development programs as welfare.