The House of Representatives passed its FY15 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) appropriations bill (H.R. 4745) on June 10, approving three harmful amendments to an already problematic bill. The bill passed by 229 to 192, with 14 Democrats joining the majority and 12 Republicans joining the minority.
Senate consideration of its THUD appropriations bill (S. 2438) is expected as early as the week of June 16. It is not known yet whether amendments will be allowed. It also is likely that more than one appropriations bill will be considered as a package, including the FY15 THUD; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; and Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bills.
The House bill, which was voted out of the House Committee on Appropriations on May 21 (see Memo, 5/23), fails to fully fund the Housing Choice Voucher program, cuts funding for public housing, flat funds homeless assistance grants, cuts the HOME program by 30%, and make deep cuts to HUD’s fair housing, healthy housing, and research programs.
On June 9, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on H.R. 4745, declaring that it “strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 4745.” The SAP states, “The bill… provides insufficient support for critical housing programs for low income Americans and the homeless.” Regarding the voucher program, the SAP says, “the funding level in the bill is insufficient to provide the same level of assistance to families as in 2014 and would not restore the sequestration cut.”
The SAP also strongly opposes the bill’s funding level for homeless assistance grants, which “would not allow for the development of any new permanent supportive housing as part of the Administration’s efforts to end chronic homelessness in 2016.” The SAP also says that funding levels for public housing “may delay necessary maintenance and capital improvements and expose low income families to deteriorating living conditions.” The SAP opposes the bill’s funding levels for the HOME, fair housing, lead hazard and healthy homes, Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, housing counseling, and information technology accounts.
Several amendments were accepted during House debate of H.R. 4757. The bill was considered under an open rule, meaning amendments did not have to be approved by the Rules Committee in advance to be offered on the floor of the House. Priority recognition was given to amendments that were pre-printed in the Congressional Record the previous day, but preprinting was not required. Amendments were subject to points of order, that is, an amendment could be ruled out of order if it did not comply with House rules for consideration of appropriations bills.
Representative Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) amendment to prohibit HUD from using any funds to implement, enforce, or administer its proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule passed by a vote of 219 to 207, with no Democrats joining the majority and nine Republicans joining the minority. Speaking in favor of his amendment, Mr. Gosar said “this common sense amendment…keeps the federal government from reorganizing communities to a fantastical standard.” House THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Ed Pastor (D-AZ) countered, saying that HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing proposed rule does not change the statutory obligations of communities. “The Fair Housing Act has been law for the past 45 years, and this rule does not change that law. This rule simply provides communities with more data to comply with their existing duties under the law. I support fair housing, and I oppose this amendment,” Mr. Pastor said.
An amendment passed that would restrict the use of vouchers by placing a hard cap on their value. Offered by Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL), the amendment would prohibit “exception payment standards” above 120% of the Fair Market Rent (FMR). Currently, public housing agencies (PHAs) can request HUD approval for an exception payment standard above 120% of FMR for three reasons: as a reasonable accommodation for households with disabilities, to help families find housing outside areas of high poverty concentrations, or because voucher holders have trouble finding housing to lease. Housing mobility advocates consider the ability to increase payment standards a key tool for improving voucher holders’ access to high opportunity areas. The amendment passed by 210 to 209, with 199 Republicans and 11 Democrats voting in favor, while 182 Democrats and 27 Republicans opposed it.
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) offered an amendment that would prohibit HUD from using any of its funding to implement or administer the National Housing Trust Fund (see related article elsewhere in Memo). It passed by voice vote.
NLIHC urges advocates to work with their House and Senate offices to remove these amendments during conference committee negotiations between the House bill and its Senate counterpart.
Four amendments passed by voice vote that would add funds to certain programs. The first, offered by Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI), would target $10 million of homeless assistance program funds for rural housing stability assistance. “The face of poverty is different in rural America. Instead of having families living on the street, oftentimes we see neighbors, two, three families move into a single-room apartment so they can give their kids shelter,” Mr. Duffy said.
The second successful funding-related amendment, offered by Representative John Conyers (D-MI), would increase homeless assistance grant funding dedicated to the national homeless data analysis project from $5 million to $7 million. Mr. Conyers said on the House floor, “homelessness is not only corrosive to individual lives, but also to our national character. It is unthinkable that more than a million people routinely go homeless in the most prosperous nation this world has ever known. In the struggle to eliminate homelessness, the national homeless data analysis project is essential.”
An amendment offered by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) to increase funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program by $10 million by reducing HUD’s information technology fund by the same amount was also successful.
Finally, Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) offered an amendment to increase from $300,000 to $450,000, the amount of the fair housing appropriation that could be used for HUD’s Limited English Proficiency program.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) offered an amendment, passed by voice vote, that would “effectively stop HUD from closing any of its offices where asset management staff are currently located,” Ms. Waters explained on the House floor. HUD’s multifamily housing transformation initiative is designed to relocate HUD’s asset management staff and to restructure HUD’s multifamily field offices nationwide, reducing the number of these offices from 50 to 12 (see Memo, 4/26/13 and 4/11/14).
Representative Ron DeSantis (R-FL) offered an amendment, passed by voice vote, to prohibit use of HUD funds to repay any loan made, guaranteed, or insured by HUD. “Under current practice, taxpayers can find themselves on the hook not only for loans to private developments, but also for repayments on these loans,” Mr. DeSantis said. He explained that CDBG funds are used to repay loans for hotels, parks, arenas, and restaurants when the projects fail. “This practice encourages cronyism and economic distortion while throwing away taxpayer money on projects that couldn’t survive on their own with private funding,” Mr. DeSantis said. NLIHC is analyzing this amendment, concerned that the language is too broad and could potentially have a negative impact on the use of project-based rental assistance to refinance HUD-insured or HUD-held debt.
Representative Brian Higgins (D-NY) offered an amendment, passed by voice vote, to prevent cities with declining populations from losing “entitlement community” status and therefore direct receipt of CDBG funding from HUD. Entitlement communities include cities with populations of 50,000 or more. HUD’s practice over the duration of the CDBG program, according to Mr. Higgins, has been to allow cities that fall below the 50,000 threshold after having been an entitlement community to continue to receive CDBG funding. However, Mr. Higgins said that HUD has signaled a desire to “change course and remove these cities from the program.” The impact, Mr. Higgins said, would have devastated 127 cities in 31 states, including Niagara Falls, NY in his district.
Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) offered unsuccessful amendments to increase funds for the Housing Choice Voucher program and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. The first amendment would have increased voucher funding by $988.4 million, sufficient to renew all vouchers in use in 2014 and restore the 40,000 vouchers that were lost due to the sequester’s cuts in 2013 but not restored by the FY14 THUD bill. Because Mr. Nadler’s bill did not have an offset, it was ruled out of order. Mr. Nadler spoke passionately about his amendment on the House floor, “Without this amendment, we will see a spike in homelessness, a spike in medical costs, and a spike in hungry kids. I understand the point of order. I understand the rules demand an offset…But, when funding levels are this restrictive across the board, as they are in this bill, it is impossible to offset such drastic underfunding without hurting other people in need. The rules and the drastic underfunding of this bill make it impossible to meet basic human needs.”
Mr. Nadler’s second amendment would have increased funding for the HOPWA program by $29.1 million. For this amendment, Mr. Nadler included an offset of $29.1 million from HUD’s information technology fund. The amendment failed by 205 to 221, with 191 Democrats and 14 Republicans in favor, and 214 Republicans and seven Democrats opposed. The amendment would have restored HOPWA to its FY13 funding level of $335 million. The House bill provides $306 million for HOPWA, $24 million less than its FY14 funding level. “Housing interventions are critical in our continued fight against HIV/AIDS. And research clearly shows that stable housing leads to better health outcomes,” Mr. Nadler said.
Several amendments failed that would decrease funding for HUD programs and shift the savings into deficit reduction. These included amendments from:
- Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH) to decrease voucher funding by 10%;
- Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to decrease public housing operating and capital funds by a total of $24.7 million;
- Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) to reduce CDBG by $200 million, and another to reduce CDBG funding by a lesser amount, $20 million;
- Another from Representative Broun to reduce funding for Section 236 rental housing assistance payments by $7 million;
- Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to reduce funding in the entire THUD bill by 1%; and
- Representative Gosar to reduce funding for HUD’s management and administrative offices by 4.2%.
An amendment from Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to decrease funding for the HOME program by $100 million and shift these funds to the CDBG program also failed.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) offered and withdrew an amendment to provide a platform to give “notice to [HUD] that a better job can be done” with respect to educating tenants about their rights and responsibilities. The amendment would have increased funding for HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research by $1 million, offset by a reduction of $1 million to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General.
Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) offered an amendment to create an energy- and water-efficiency demonstration for up to 20,000 HUD-assisted multifamily units. The demonstration mirrors language included in the Senate Appropriations Committee THUD bill. However, the amendment was deemed to be creating policy in an appropriations bill, and thus, ruled out of order and did not receive a vote.