On May 1, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, introduced H.R. 2231, the “Public Housing Tenant Protections and Reinvestment Act of 2015.” The bill seeks to preserve public housing and transform neighborhoods by authorizing full funding for public housing and providing additional funds to address the significant backlog of capital needs. The bill would require that, when public housing must be demolished or sold, the units affected would have to be replaced on a one-for-one basis, reinstating a provision that Congress eliminated in 1995. The bill also increases tenant protections to help ensure that residents who choose to may stay in their communities when public housing is redeveloped.
In a press statement about the bill, Ms. Waters said, “For generations, public housing has provided a critical bridge out of poverty for millions of Americans. Today, that bridge is crumbling due to chronic underfunding and neglect. Particularly in the midst of the current rental housing crisis, it is unconscionable that we have lost approximately 200,000 units of public housing since 2000, and we continue to lose more every year.”
Title I of the bill is the Public Housing One-for-One Replacement and Tenant Protection Act of 2015. It would revise Section 18 of the Housing Act of 1937 to require each public housing unit demolished or disposed of to be replaced on a one-for-one basis with a newly constructed unit, a rehabilitated unit, a unit purchased to serve as a replacement, or project-based assistance. HUD would be required to provide tenant protection vouchers for all units, subject to appropriations. Section 18 and the proposed one-for-one replacement provisions would also apply to Section 22 voluntary conversions to vouchers, Section 33 mandatory conversions to vouchers, and units taken through eminent domain.
HUD would be allowed to waive the one-for-one replacement requirement for up to 10% of the total number of units owned by a public housing agency (PHA) in any 10-year period under two conditions. First would be when there is a court order or judgment limiting a PHA’s ability to comply. Second would be when the PHA demonstrates that there is an excess supply of affordable rental housing in areas of low poverty, that in areas surrounding a project at least 90% of the vouchers issued during the last two years were leased within 120 days, and that existing voucher holders are widely disbursed in areas of low poverty with public transportation, quality education, and other amenities.
Replacement units would be required to be of comparable size and have the number of bedrooms needed to serve displaced households. Replacement units would also have to have the same requirements as public housing regarding income eligibility, affordability restrictions, tenant contribution toward rent, and eviction protections and procedures. Tenants would have a right to return to replacement housing. A PHA or other manager of replacement housing could not impose additional eligibility requirements, rescreen tenants, or otherwise erect barriers to return. Tenants occupying replacement housing would have all of the rights they had under public housing, including grievance procedures and Section 964 tenant participation provisions.
When public housing is demolished, at least one-third of all replacement units must be public housing units built on the original public housing site. The PHA must ensure that sufficient units will be provided on the original site or in the same neighborhood to accommodate all tenants who want to remain at that site or in the neighborhood.
No later than 90 days before submitting an application to HUD for demolition, disposition, or conversion, a PHA would have to meet with and inform all residents in writing of the PHA’s intent to apply, plans for replacement housing, and their right to return along with their relocation options. The PHA would also have to determine if a resident wants to return to replacement housing constructed on the original site or same neighborhood, to move to another neighborhood or community, or to receive a housing voucher.
HUD would be prohibited from approving an application for demolition or disposition if the PHA did not provide for the active involvement of residents, resident advisory boards, and resident councils during the preparation and implementation of the plan for demolition, relocation, and replacement of units. HUD would be prohibited from approving a plan to demolish, dispose of, or convert units that does not affirmatively further fair housing.
If residents are temporarily relocated off-site, the temporary housing would have to be in areas generally not less desirable and must include at least one unit in an area of low-poverty and one unit within the neighborhood of the original public housing site.
PHAs would be required to fully inform displaced residents of all relocation options, including relocation to housing in a neighborhood with a lower concentration of poverty, relocation to a neighborhood where relocation will not increase racial segregation, or remaining in their current neighborhood. PHAs would be required to obtain and analyze data regarding the potential impact of a proposed demolition or disposition on tenants that had to relocate, occupants of the surrounding neighborhood, residents of neighborhoods into which tenants are likely to be relocated, and people on the PHA’s waiting list. The PHA would have to describe actions that it has taken or will take to mitigate adverse impacts, and certify that that the demolition, disposition, relocation, or replacement housing will affirmatively further fair housing.
The bill would prohibit PHAs from relocating residents before securing HUD approval to demolish or dispose of public housing. It would also prohibit a PHA from beginning demolition or completing disposition until all residents are relocated.
Title II is the Public Housing Preservation and Rehabilitation Act of 2015. It would authorize funds for the Public Housing Capital Fund for FY16 through FY25 in “such sums as may be necessary to fully fund…the estimated need of public housing agencies…” In addition, the bill would authorize $5 billion each year to address the capital fund backlog. In 2010 a HUD-sponsored study identified a $26 billion capital needs backlog, which would become $3.4 billion deeper each year for 20 years (see Memo, 6/24/11). Title II would authorize funding for the Public Housing Operating Fund in amounts needed to fully fund the estimated need for each fiscal year from FY16 through FY25.
The bill would allow HUD to establish a Capital Fund Loan Guarantee up to $500 million each year to enable PHAs to attract private investment to rehabilitate public housing, make energy efficiency improvements, or to construct, rehabilitate, purchase, or convert units in order to replace units demolished, disposed of, or converted. The loan guarantee would be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, have a term not to exceed 20 years, and guarantee repayment of 95% of the unpaid principal and interest.
PHAs using Low Income Housing Tax Credits in conjunction with public housing would have to ensure that all significant tenant and applicant rights are continued and enforced; that the PHA retains interest in the property to the maximum extent possible, including through ground leases; that the PHA maintains an active role in property management decisions and operations; and that long-term affordability protections apply in the event of a default or foreclosure.
Finally, Title II would remove the restriction on the construction of new public housing units.
Title III is the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Act of 2015. It would formally authorize the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI), which HUD has been administering since FY10 based solely on Congressional appropriations. Title III proposes a $1billion authorization (up from recent an appropriation of $80 million in FY15), requiring at least 80% to be used to revitalize severely distressed public housing units. To be eligible for a CNI grant, an application would have to have an affordability period of 50 years or longer.
The summary of the bill acknowledges that Title III intends to correct for the problems of the HOPE VI program. For instance, CNI would require one-for-one replacement of units demolished or otherwise removed from the public housing stock. Many displaced residents of HOPE VI projects who wanted to return to the revitalized properties and their neighborhoods were rescreened using new admissions criteria, resulting in residents being denied the right to return. In addition, while waiting many years for redevelopment to take place, PHAs with HOPE VI projects lost contact with many residents, who consequently could not benefit from revitalization. Title III would require significant resident involvement and tenant protections mirroring those in Title I, while adding monitoring of displaced households.
Title IV is the Together We Care Act of 2015. It would authorize $2.5 million for FY16-FY18 to provide grants to a range of eligible entities to train public housing residents to provide in-home health care for elderly and disabled residents of public and federally assisted housing.
The bill was referred to the Financial Services Committee. It has no cosponsors.
The text of the bill is at http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/waters_035_xml.pdf
Ms. Waters’s media release is at http://democrats.financialservices.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=399027
Basic information about public housing is on page 4-9 of NLIHC’s 2015 Advocates’ Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Sec4.04_Public-Housing-ARC_2015.pdf
Basic Information about the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is on page 4-14 of NLIHC’s 2015 Advocates’ Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Sec4.05_Public-Housing-Choice-Neighborhoods_2015.pdf
Basic information about Section 22 voluntary conversions and Section 33 mandatory conversions is on pages 24 and 25 of NLIHC’s Preservation Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Preservation-Guide2010.pdf