The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity approved H.R. 32, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2011 on February 7. The bill was approved at a markup where discussion drafts of the FHA Emergency Fiscal Solvency Act of 2012 and the Affordable Housing and Self-Sufficiency Improvement Act of 2012 were also considered (see article above in Memo). The legislation now awaits action by the full Committee on Financial Services. A full committee markup of H.R. 32 and the other bills considered by the Subcommittee on February 7 has been scheduled tentatively for February 28 at 10 am.
H.R. 32 would expand the HUD definition of homelessness to align with the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Education. The expanded definition would count children living in “doubled-up” situations as homeless. Many advocates are concerned that without additional funding, the bill would dilute existing resources intended to serve people experiencing homelessness, with the result that the households in most need of help may not receive assistance.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) offered an amendment in the markup that would authorize appropriations to carry out the activities required under the bill. If adopted, this amendment would require compliance with the bill’s provisions only if sufficient resources were provided to implement them. The amendment failed by voice vote and the underlying bill, with technical changes made through an amendment in the nature of a substitute, was approved and reported out of the subcommittee by a voice vote.
Subcommittee Chair Judy Biggert (R-IL) expressed concern that the amendment from Ms. Waters would “negate the purpose of the bill” and that the authorization of appropriations would add a cost to the bill that would have to be offset. In response, Subcommittee Ranking Member Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) said that the bill as is would not solve any problems as there is no funding authorized to carry out the purpose of the bill.
While NLIHC thinks H.R. 32’s sponsor are very positively motivated, it does not support consideration of the bill at this time. The measure does not provide additional resources to serve the people who would be made newly eligible for HUD homeless services by the bill, and HUD is still in the process of implementing the HEARTH Act which was enacted in 2009.
“While there are a number of policy interventions that can mitigate the effects of homelessness on children, the fact remains that children, families, and society will all be better off if we can intervene to prevent homelessness from the outset. This can be done by assuring that sufficient resources are provided to ensure that all households have access to housing that is affordable to them,” said NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley in a letter submitted for the record at a hearing on the bill last December (see Memo, 12/16/2011).
In an action alert sent out prior to the February 7 markup, the National Alliance to End Homelessness expressed strong opposition to H.R. 32, saying, “the legislation is well-intentioned but would have disastrous consequences. It would make an estimated additional 2.35 million children (and their parents) eligible to receive transitional housing and permanent supportive housing without providing any additional resources to serve them.”
NLIHC’s letter is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/NLIHC_Homeless_Children_Youth_Ltr_12-14-11.pdf
An archived webcast of the markup is available at: http://financialservices.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277936