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Advocates Secure Increased Funding for Housing and Community Development in Final FY21 Spending Bill

House and Senate leaders released today a final bill to fund affordable housing and community development programs at HUD and USDA as part of a larger omnibus package for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Essential COVID-19 relief, including $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and a one-month extension of the federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is also attached to the spending bill. For more details on the housing provisions of the COVID-19 relief package, see NLIHC’s full analysis.

Overall, the spending bill provides HUD $49.6 billion - more than $12.4 billion above the president’s request, and $561 million above FY20 enacted levels, excluding Federal Housing Administration receipts. It largely funds HUD programs at or above levels proposed by the Senate in November, though not as high as levels proposed by the House. With this spending bill, Congress clearly rejected the administration’s calls to drastically cut housing benefits that help millions of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other individuals afford their homes. For more details on the FY21 spending bill, see NLIHC’s updated budget chart.

This increased funding is largely due to the hard work of advocates across the nation and champions in Congress, including Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees. While Congress reached a two-year bipartisan budget agreement in 2019 to provide limited relief from severe spending caps, the Appropriations Committees had only about $5 billion more in FY21 than FY20 for all domestic programs, including affordable housing. Our congressional champions also rejected a proposal from the Trump administration to rescind the Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare funding’s exemption from budget caps – a move that would have required Congress to cut an additional $7 billion from domestic spending programs at a time when states, communities, and individuals are struggling to make ends meet.

The spending bill likely provides enough funding to renew all existing contracts provided through Housing Choice Vouchers ($25.77 billion) and Project-Based Rental Assistance ($13.465 billion). Beyond rental assistance, the spending bill provides level funding or moderate increases to all programs; none of HUD’s programs were cut in the final spending bill. Homeless Assistance Grants ($3 billion) received a $223 million increase, Community Development Block Grants received a $50 million increase to $3.475 billion, and Choice Neighborhoods ($200 million) was expanded by $25 million. Moderate funding increases were provided to the Public Housing Capital Fund ($2.94 billion) and Operating Fund ($4.864 billion). Section 202 Housing for the Elderly ($855 million), and Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities ($227 million) received increased funding as well. The HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) program and native programs were level-funded.

NLIHC urges advocates to contact their representatives and senators to urge them to pass this final FY 2021 spending package as quickly as possible and to thank them for their leadership in ensuring the highest levels of funding possible for housing and community development programs. The legislation may receive a vote in the House as soon as today, December 21, followed quickly by a vote in the Senate before it heads to the president’s desk for his signature.

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance

The bill provides $25.777 billion for tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA), including $23.08 billion to renew previous contacts. This is a significant increase over President Trump’s $18.833 billion request for TBRA for FY21 and is enough to renew all existing contracts for the year as long as HUD makes adequate use of the reserve offset authority.

The bill allocates $40 million for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), level funding from FY20, and $5 million to serve Native American veterans, an increase of $4 million. 

The bill provides $314 million for Section 811 mainstream vouchers, an increase from $229 million provided in FY20, and it provides level funding for Family Unification Program vouchers at $25 million.

The bill also provides $43 million in additional funding for new vouchers for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Project-Based Rental Housing

The bill provides $13.465 billion to renew Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) contracts for calendar year 2021, an increase of $895 million from FY20 funding levels. Advocates estimate this amount will be sufficient to renew all contracts. Like TBRA, PBRA contracts require increased funding from year to year to maintain the same level of service and number of families served.

Public Housing

Funding for the public housing operating fund is set at $4.864 billion, and an additional $25 million is made available based on need. This amount is $315 million more than FY20.

The bill provides the capital account with a $73 million increase to $2.942 billion. Of this total, $2.765 billion is for the capital fund, and an additional $75 million is for emergency capital needs, $25 million for lead-based hazards, $35 million for a Healthy Homes Initiative, $15 million for troubled properties, $23 million to support financial and physical assessment activities, and $4 million for radon testing. (The President had proposed to zero out funding for this last program.)

Funding for the Family Self-Sufficiency program increased to $105 million.

Homelessness

The bill increases funding for homeless assistance programs to $3 billion, up from $2.777 billion in FY20. The president would have funded the program at $2.773 billion; the House bill would have funded these programs at $3.42 billion, and the Senate bill at $2.95 billion. The bill also cancels the Continuums of Care (CoC) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) competition for 2021, which advocates have been pushing for to ensure homeless service providers are able to focus their efforts on responding to the needs of unhoused people throughout the duration of the pandemic.

The bill also provides $3.8 million to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Other Housing Programs

The bill provides $855 million to the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, an increase of $62 million from FY20 enacted levels, and increases funding for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program to $227 million, $25 million more than in FY20.

The bill would increase funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program by $50 million to $3.475 billion and provides level funding for the HOME Investments Partnerships program (HOME) at $1.35 billion. Both programs would have been eliminated under the president’s budget request.

An additional $20 million is provided for legal assistance within the Housing Counseling account.

Funding for the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program was increased to $430 million, $20 million more than in FY20.

Funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is increased by $25 million to $200 million; funding would have been eliminated in the president’s budget.

The bill provides $647 million for the Native American Housing Block Grant program, a slight increase from FY20, and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program received level funding at $2 million in the FY21 bill.

Healthy Homes

The bill allocated $360 million to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants, an increase of $70 million from FY20.

Fair Housing

The bill includes $72.5 million for HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, a modest increase from FY20.

Rural Housing

The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration FY21 spending bill includes $1.4 billion for Section 521 Rental Assistance and provides $68 million for Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization, an increase of $8 million from FY20. Section 515 Rental Housing Direct Loans received $40 million, level funding from FY20.

Policy Issues

The final spending bill clearly rejects HUD Secretary Carson’s proposal to slash federal housing benefits through harmful rent increases, rigid work requirements, and other barriers to assistance that would only make it more difficult for low-income people to climb the economic ladder and live with dignity.

The final bill does not, however, include many other critical provisions approved in the House version to halt harmful and discriminatory proposals from the Trump administration. NLIHC sent a transition memo to the incoming Biden administration, urging them to immediately roll back these harmful policy changes.

The final bill is silent on HUD’s proposed anti-transgender rule change to the Equal Access Rule – a proposal that would put at risk the lives and safety of trans people seeking shelter, especially trans women of color. The House spending bill would have ensured that transgender individuals have access to single-sex emergency shelters and other facilities that match their gender identity. NLIHC, True Colors United, and other national organizations launched the Housing Saves Lives campaign and mobilized advocates to submit more than 66,000 public comments in opposition to the proposed rule. To learn more, visit www.HousingSavesLives.org.

The final bill also does not include the House version’s language to prevent HUD from finalizing its proposed rule to force mixed-status immigrant families to separate or face eviction from HUD housing. HUD's proposed rule would force families of mixed immigration status to break up to receive housing assistance, to forego assistance altogether, or face termination from the programs. This rule would directly impact thousands of immigrant families’ access to housing and would have a chilling effect that puts thousands more at risk of homelessness. HUD’s own analysis shows that more than 55,000 children, who are either U.S. citizens or otherwise eligible to receive housing benefits, could face eviction under the proposed rule. The proposed rule would continue to engender fear and chaos among immigrants and their families. More than 30,000 comments were submitted during the public comment period on the proposed rule, reflecting the overwhelming opposition from individuals, organizations, and elected officials. To learn more and stay engage with our efforts to oppose this rule, visit: www.Keep-Families-Together.org.

The spending bill does not include legislative text to prevent HUD’s harmful changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and Disparate Impact rule that undermine tools used to address historic and ongoing legacies of racial discrimination. The House bill included such provisions. The Biden administration is expected to roll back these policy changes.

The final bill does not include provisions to require HUD to uphold the proven-effective Housing First model for addressing homelessness, likely because the Biden administration is expected to embrace the model. The final bill does not prohibit HUD from imposing treatment or other pre-requisites on people experiencing homelessness as a condition for receiving shelter or other assistance. It also does not require HUD to use the 2018 Continuum of Care Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), which ensures Housing First and LBGT protections. Moreover, the bill does not include the House proposal to prohibit the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) from using funding to promote homelessness interventions unless those interventions include support for evidence-based interventions like Housing First and permanent supportive housing. The House included these provisions after several false claims made by USICH Director Robert Marbut and after testimony, HUD Secretary Carson made before the subcommittee that he was “looking for ways to work around” Housing First. Both administration officials have clearly demonstrated a critical lack of understanding of the causes and solutions to homelessness.

Infrastructure Investments:

The final spending bill does not include emergency infrastructure investments, as included in the House version. The House provided $75 billion in emergency infrastructure investments, including $49 billion for housing investments. Of those housing investments, $24 billion was for public housing capital repairs, which face a $70 billion backlog. The House infrastructure provisions also provided $4 billion through CDBG, $17.5 billion through HOME, and $1 billion for Tribal housing, $300 million for Choice Neighborhoods, among other investments. These emergency funds are not reflected in NLIHC’s updated budget chart.

Other Legislation:

Several other housing-related bills were added to the omnibus package.

The package includes the “Carbon Monoxide Alarms Leading Every Resident to Safety Act (CO ALERTS Act)” requiring carbon monoxide alarms in federally assisted homes with a potential carbon monoxide source, such as gas-fired appliances, fireplaces, forced-air furnaces, and attached garages. HUD will also be required to provide public housing agencies (PHAs) guidance on how to educate tenants on health hazards in the home, and the bill instructs the agency to consult with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct a public study on requiring carbon monoxide alarms in housing not covered by the International Fire Code. The “CO ALERTS Act” was introduced in September 2019 by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL).

The spending package also includes the “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act,” which improves the accessibility of Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers for youth aging out of foster care by allowing vouchers to be administered when needed to foster youth at risk of homelessness. It would provide voucher recipients engaged in education, training, or work-related activities the opportunity to extend the use of their vouchers from the standard 36 months to up to 60 months. The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Madeline Dean (D-PA), Michael Turner (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Steve Stivers (R-OH) in September 2019.

The final spending bill also includes the “Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act,” which would allow Tribes and tribally designated housing entities to apply for, receive, and administer grants and subgrants under the Continuum of Care program, which they are currently unable to do. The bill was first introduced in the House in July 2019 by Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) and sponsored by a group of 12 bipartisan members of Congress. The House passed this bill by voice vote in November 2019.

As noted previously, the bill eliminates the 2020 competition for Continuums of Care funding.