Ensuring Proper Community Investments Act, H.R. 971
Representatives Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC) introduced legislation on March 5 to prohibit the sale or trade of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) from one community to another.
The Ensuring Proper Community Investments Act, H.R. 971, would prohibit any jurisdiction that receives CDBG funds directly from HUD or through a state’s allocation from selling, trading or otherwise transferring all or any portion of its CDBG funds to, or for, any other metropolitan city, urban county, unit of general local government, Indian tribe or insular area.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)’s report issued in October 2012, Wastebook 2012, includes a description of two California towns that sold unwanted and unused CDBG funds to other towns for around 70 cents per dollar of CDBG funds. Wastebook 2012 reported that towns are “making money off a program intended for the poor and getting around federal requirements to fund projects for low income residents by selling federal antipoverty grants to other communities.”
Senator Coburn’s assertions about the sale of CDBG funds were strongly refuted in a letter to Senator Coburn from the Community Development Block Grant Coalition sent in December 2012 letter.
In a statement upon introduction of H.R. 971, Mr. Paulsen said the bill is meant to ensure CDBG funds are used for their intended purpose of improving the lives of low and moderate income residents, following a theme from Wastebook 2012. “These funds are specifically intended to help the homeless and less fortunate, and this legislation ensures that municipalities follow the rules so these grants help those who are truly in need,” Mr. Paulsen said in a March 5 press release.
“Community Development Block Grants should be used to help the low and moderate income folks they’re meant for, not to prop up affluent communities who don’t need them,” Mr. McHenry said in the same press release. “This bill will cut waste and abuse while ensuring that assistance goes to those most in need.”
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.
The letter from the CDBG Coalition is attached to this page.
Family Self-Sufficiency Act, S. 454
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S. 454, the Family Self-Sufficiency Act, to improve and expand HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program on March 5. The FSS program helps public housing and voucher-assisted households build assets and make progress toward self-sufficiency goals. The legislation would expand eligibility for the FSS program to project-based Section 8 tenants. Owners of privately-owned, project-based Section 8 properties could voluntarily make a local FSS program available to tenants by entering into a cooperative agreement with a local public housing agency that administers an FSS program.
“Every American wants the opportunity to succeed. The FSS program helps families receiving federal housing assistance to set and achieve their financial goals so they can become independent,” said Senator Reed in a press statement. “Our bill will streamline the program and make it more effective so it can reach more residents and give more folks an opportunity to build a better life.”
“I’m glad to support this bipartisan bill, which will help empower people to get back on their feet and become economically independent at a time when hardworking families in Missouri and nationwide are struggling to make ends meet,” Senator Blunt said in the same press statement.
In addition to allowing the expansion of the FSS program to project-based tenants, the bill would also streamline the public housing and voucher FSS programs, which are now separate, into one program. In addition, the bill would expand the kind of supportive services that may be undertaken by enrolled families.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
Title X Amendments Act, S. 290; Healthy Housing Council Act, S. 291
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced two bills related to healthy housing issues on February 13.
S. 290, the Title X Amendments Act, would make changes to Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act. Among other provisions, the measure expands the Title X statute to include healthy housing activities; the statute is currently specific to lead hazards. Healthy housing activities include efforts to mitigate the effects of a housing-related health hazard, which is defined under the bill as “residential real property that poses a risk of biological, physical, radiological, or chemical exposure that can adversely affect human health.”
S. 290 amends the Title X statute to allow for HUD to conduct healthy housing activities and address lead hazards in zero-bedroom housing units. The bill also expands the types of entities eligible to receive HUD grant funding for healthy housing activities to include nonprofit organizations. Currently, only state and local governments are eligible to receive healthy housing grants. The bill authorizes $250 million in annual appropriations to carry out the bill’s provisions for fiscal years 2014 through 2018.
S. 291, the Healthy Housing Council Act, would establish an interagency council that would review the efficiency of and find ways to improve the existing federal programs that provide healthy housing, health, energy or environmental services to families and individuals. The measure was introduced as H.R. 1617 in the 112th Congress and was also introduced in the 111th Congress (see Memo, 9/30/11).
Restore Our Neighborhood Act, H.R 656
Representatives David Joyce (R-OH), Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced H.R 656, on February 13, to authorize $4 billion in federal demolition bonds. Once authorized, funds would be allocated to states, and states would allocate the funds to qualified issuers, defined as state-authorized land banks. The bill, the Restore Our Neighborhood Act, would provide funds to undertake significant residential and commercial structure demolition projects in urban areas to assist blighted neighborhoods. Of the $4 billion, $2 billion is to be allocated to qualified states based on their proportion of non-seasonal vacant properties. To be qualified, at least 49% of the state’s total housing units must have been built before 1980, and must meet three of the following four requirements:
- Rank in the top 20 among states in percentage change of non-seasonal vacancies between 2000 and 2010.
- Rank in the top 25 among states in unemployment rate in the most recent January through November period.
- Rank in the top 25 among states in percentage of mortgages in foreclosure for the third quarter in 2012.
- Rank in the top 20 among states in the lowest percentage change in population growth between 2000 and 2010.
Although there is no current list of qualified states, it is expected that several states will meet the qualified state criteria, including Ohio and Michigan. The states that are targeted under the qualification criteria are states that have numerous vacant properties in severe disrepair. These properties contribute to crime, have negative impacts on neighborhoods, and are too costly to logically rehabilitate. Funds to demolish these properties will help alleviate these problems. The remaining $2 billion is to be allocated equally among all states.
The bill authorizes bonding authority, which the Department of the Treasury would allocate to states. Locally, the bonds would be issued by land banks, or by states when the state does not have a land bank.
“This common-sense bill will increase home values, decrease crime, and protect responsible homeowners from the enormous economic drag of vacant or abandoned homes in their neighborhoods. For too long, responsible Ohioans paying their mortgage every month and meticulously taking care of their homes have been punished. This legislation will protect Ohio homeowners who are doing exactly what they should be doing and I look forward to bipartisan support,” Mr. Joyce said at a press event upon the bill’s introduction.
“This legislation provides a strong, sensible and cost-effective tool to meet the immediate need of rebuilding our communities. The sheer volume of foreclosed and abandoned properties continues to lower property values in neighborhoods across the nation. These blighted structures invite crime and negatively impact the quality of life for residents who work hard to maintain their homes,” said Ms. Fudge in a statement after the bill’s introduction.
Ms. Fudge, Ms. Kaptur, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland City Council Member Zack Reed joined Mr. Joyce at a March 5 press conference in support of the bill.
The bill would also allow states to use allocated Hardest Hit Fund amounts for demolition activities.
The bill is a reintroduction of H.R. 4210, which was introduced by Ms. Fudge and former Representative Steven LaTourette (R-OH), from the 112th Congress.
Expanding the Definition of Homeless Veteran, H.R. 897
Representative Janice Hahn (D-CA) introduced H.R. 897, legislation to expand the definition of homeless veteran for purposes of benefits from Department of Veterans Affairs programs. Introduced on February 28, the bill expands the definition of homeless veterans to include veterans who are fleeing domestic violence. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009 updated the definition of homelessness to cover individuals fleeing domestic violence. However, the definition of “homeless veteran” was not updated to reflect this change.
The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and has one cosponsor as of this writing. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate (see Memo, 3/1). Both bills were also introduced by Ms. Hahn and Senator Begich in the 112th Congress (see Memo, 5/18/12).
Rural Housing Preservation Act, H.R. 858
Legislation was introduced on February 27 to keep rural communities eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development (RD) funding. The bill, H.R. 858, was introduced by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and five cosponsors, two Republicans and three Democrats.
Based on 2010 Census findings, 933 communities across the country will no longer be eligible for housing programs under the RD’s “rural” definition after March 27, when a fix to this problem in the FY13 continuing resolution is set to expire.
"Adequate and affordable housing is often a challenge in our rural communities," Mr. Fortenberry said in a press release. "This legislation would help keep rural communities eligible to compete for assistance in important housing programs."
The Rural Housing Preservation Act preserves the definition of "rural" under current law until 2020 Census data is available. Mr. Fortenberry’s press release makes clear that there are no costs to his bill. “The legislation has no impact on the federal deficit and it only continues eligibility for UDSA Rural Development programs, not funding. The communities must continue to apply for funding on a competitive basis,” the release says.
The bill, a reintroduction of H.R. 6416 from the 112th Congress, was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services.