The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) passed its FY16 appropriations bill on April 29 by voice vote. The full House Committee on Appropriations is expected to consider the bill during the week of May 11.
The bill, written to comply with the Budget Control Act’s strict sequester caps for nondefense discretionary spending, would cut or underfund many housing programs in FY16 and direct all National Housing Trust Fund resources into the HOME program in FY16 (see related article).
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) discussed the challenges for the bill. “Many of the financial holes we face in crafting this bill are due to factors beyond our control,” he said. “If we wrote the bill at higher levels,” Chair Diaz-Balart said, “we’d be subject to sequestration.” Full Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) said, “The legislation provides ample support for initiatives that help provide access to affordable housing and counseling services for those who need it most.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) expressed concern about the bill’s decreased funds for public housing and healthy housing programs, and blamed budget issues outside of the THUD subcommittee for the bill’s low numbers. “The House majority has stood in the way of the sort of broad budget agreement that balanced the budget in the 1990s. The House has failed to seriously address the main drivers of the deficit – tax expenditures and entitlement spending – returning again and again to appropriations, and especially critical domestic investments, to bear the whole brunt of deficit reduction. The result is a disaster for our economy and for the work of most of our appropriations subcommittees,” he said. “We can’t just wring our hands and say we’re broke…we’re not broke.”
The House THUD Subcommittee bill would provide sufficient funds to renew existing housing choice vouchers if HUD uses the authority provided in the bill to offset voucher funding allocations based on “excess” public housing agency reserves. The bill does not provide any FY16 funding for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers nor for any vouchers to restore the remaining 67,000 vouchers lost due to the 2013 sequester cuts. The bill does not increase funding for voucher administrative fees, as HUD requested, but flat funds voucher administrative fees.
For public housing, the bill would level fund the public housing operating fund, but cut the public housing capital fund by $200 million. At $1.681 billion for FY16, the capital fund is not sufficient to keep pace with even half of annual public housing capital needs. The Resident Opportunity and Supportive Services (ROSS) program, a set aside within the capital fund, would also be cut from FY15’s level of $45 million to $30 million. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) program is cut from its FY15 level of $80 million to $20 million for FY16.
The House THUD Subcommittee bill does not include language, as was requested by HUD for FY16, to remove the cap on the number of public housing units that can convert their subsidy stream from public housing to project-based Section 8 contracts or project-based vouchers under the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). Nor does the House THUD Subcommittee bill include the $50 million HUD seeks to allow for conversion of 25,000 public housing units under RAD with high rehabilitation needs.
The bill does not include policy-related requests from HUD related to public housing, including expanding the Moving to Work program, authorizing public housing agencies (PHAs) to use up to 30% of their operating or capital fund for the opposite purpose, or allowing PHAs to use capital funds to create replacement reserves.
As of this writing, it is unclear whether the bill fully funds the renewal of all project-based rental assistance contracts for full 12-month terms. The bill would provide $10.654 billion for FY16; HUD requested $10.760 billion for the renewal costs. NLIHC understands that the bill’s funding level is predicated on changes to HUD’s procurement of project-based contract administrators, but any savings from these efforts would not be realized until after FY16. NLIHC will provide updates as greater clarity on this account emerges.
The bill would increase the Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities account from $135 million to $152 million. The increase is expected to cover all project rental assistance contract renewal costs, but not fund any new rental assistance for new units. The bill would increase funds for Section 811 mainstream vouchers, from $83 million to $108 million, to renew existing vouchers.
The Section 202 supportive housing for the elderly program is cut from $436 million in FY15 to $414 million for FY16. The Section 202 program’s project rental assistance contract renewal costs would be underfunded by $44 million, which also does not provide for the production of new Section 202 units.
HUD’s homeless assistance programs receive a $50 million increase in the House THUD Subcommittee bill taking it to $2.185 billion for FY16. The House THUD Subcommittee bill would level fund emergency solutions grants, but increase funds for continuum of care and rural housing stability assistance programs from FY15’s $1.862 billion to $1.905 billion for FY16. According to the House Committee on Appropriations’s press release, the bill “will enable the renewal of all projects meeting performance standards.” HUD requested $2.480 billion for homeless assistance for FY16, the amount needed to fully implement the President’s plan to end chronic homelessness.
The bill would increase funds for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program from $300 million in FY15 to $332 million in FY16.
The bill would fund the HOME program at $767 million for FY16, compared to its FY15 funding level of $900 million. But the House THUD Subcommittee bill would also divert all of the funds set to go into the NHTF in 2016 into the HOME program. By diverting the NHTF funds, Subcommittee Chair Diaz-Balart said during the mark-up that the bill provides $900 million for the HOME program. Full House Committee on Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) also noted during the mark-up that the bill funds HOME at $900 million. This can only be achieved by adding $133 million from the NHTF to the $767 million appropriated funds.
The House THUD Subcommittee bill would flat fund the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The bill does not include HUD’s request to increase the set-aside for Colonias in the CDBG funds received by the states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas from 10% to 15%.
The bill would level fund HUD’s fair housing programs at $65 million. The bill would significantly cut funding for HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, from the FY15 level of $110 million to $75 million in FY16.
Chair Rogers’ statement is at http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP20/20150429/103402/HMKP-114-AP20-20150429-SD003.pdf
Chair Diaz-Balart’s statement is at http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP20/20150429/103402/HMKP-114-AP20-20150429-SD002.pdf
Ranking Member Lowey’s statement is at http://democrats.appropriations.house.gov/news/press-releases/lowey-statement-at-subcommittee-markup-of-2016-t-hud-appropriations-bill
Ranking Member Price’s statement is at http://democrats.appropriations.house.gov/news/press-releases/price-statement-at-subcommittee-markup-of-2016-t-hud-appropriations-bill
The House Committee on Appropriations press release is at http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394177
NLIHC’s updated budget chart is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/FY16_HUD-USDA-Budget-Chart_042815.pdf