The House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding levels for HUD affordable housing and community development programs voted on July 8 to approve a fiscal year (FY) 2021 spending bill that provides a significant increase in funding to housing programs that serve low-income people and communities. For more details on the House FY21 spending bill, see NLIHC’s updated budget chart.
Despite limited budget caps, the House bill rejects – for the fourth year in a row – the dramatic and severe spending cuts proposed by the administration, and it provides robust increases to many programs. Thanks to the leadership of House Subcommittee Chair David Price (D-NC) and Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), the bill provides overall funding for HUD at $13 billion above the president’s FY21 request and at least $1.5 billion above FY20 enacted levels; programmatic funding levels are $18 billion above the president’s FY21 request and $4.6 billion above FY20 enacted levels. These funding levels are an important victory for advocates and their congressional champions, given the strict spending caps required by the Budget Control Act on defense and domestic programs. While Congress reached in 2019 a two-year bipartisan budget agreement to provide very limited relief from these spending caps, Congress only has about $5 billion more in FY21 than FY20 for all domestic programs, including affordable housing.
The House bill also clearly rebukes many of the harmful and discriminatory policies advanced by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The bill would prevent the department from advancing its forthcoming 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 bill bars HUD from finalizing its proposed rule to force mixed-status immigrant families – including 55,000 U.S. citizen children – to separate or face eviction from HUD housing. The bill takes important steps to prevent HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) from undermining Housing First, a proven model for addressing homelessness backed by decades of research and learning. Moreover, the bill refuses to impose harmful rent increases, rigid work requirements, and other barriers to assistance that only make it more difficult for low-income people to maintain housing stability, as proposed by Secretary Carson in his budget request.
Overall, the House bill likely provides enough funding to renew all existing contracts provided through Housing Choice Vouchers ($25.7 billion) and Project-Based Rental Assistance ($13.4 billion). Beyond rental assistance, the House subcommittee bill provides increased funding to most programs. The HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME) ($1.7 billion) receives a significant increase, along with Community Development Block Grants ($3.5 billion), and Choice Neighborhoods ($250 million). Homeless Assistance Grants ($3.45 billion), Section 202 Housing for the Elderly ($893 million), Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities ($227 million), and the Public Housing Operating Fund ($4.65 billion) received increased funding as well. The subcommittee also provides $110 million in competitive grants to tribal nations to spur construction and preservation of affordable rental housing, in addition to tribal block grants ($646 million).
This spending bill also provides $75 billion in emergency infrastructure investments, including $49 billion for housing investments through public housing ($24 billion), CDBG ($4 billion), HOME ($17.5 billion), tribal housing ($1 billion), and other programs. Regretfully, the bill provides no infrastructure investments in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The HTF is the only federal production program that is used exclusively to build, preserve, and operate homes affordable to extremely low-income households – the only income group for which there is an absolute shortage of affordable homes nationwide. See NLIHC’s infrastructure priorities here.
The House full committee may vote on the spending bill as soon as next week. The Senate is expected to vote on its draft spending bills in the coming weeks, though this timeframe may be pushed back as Congress is slated to negotiate a final coronavirus relief package before leaving for August recess.
Key Policy Changes:
The House bill includes a number of provisions aimed at halting harmful and discriminatory proposals from the Trump administration.
The bill will prevent HUD advancing the agency’s forthcoming 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 spending bill would ensure 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 have launched the Housing Saves Lives campaign and website to mobilize advocates to submit public comments in opposition to the proposed rule. To learn more, visit HousingSavesLives.org.
The House spending bill bars HUD from finalizing its proposed rule to force mixed-status immigrant families – including 55,000 U.S. citizen children – 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, contributing to the overwhelming opposition from individuals, organizations, and elected officials. To learn more and stay engage with our efforts to oppose this rule, visit: Keep-Families-Together.org
The bill also takes important steps to prevent HUD from undermining Housing First, a proven model for addressing homelessness that prioritizes access to permanent, stable housing with supportive services, if needed. Specifically, the spending bill requires HUD to use the 2018 Continuum of Care Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), which ensures Housing First and LBGT protections. The bill prohibits HUD from imposing treatment or other pre-requisites on people experiencing homelessness as a condition for receiving shelter or other assistance. Moreover, the bill prohibits funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) from being used to promote homelessness interventions, unless those interventions include support for evidence-based interventions like Housing First and permanent supportive housing. These provisions come on the heels of several false claims made by USICH Director Robert Marbut and testimony Secretary Carson made before the subcommittee, where the secretary stated 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.
Finally, the bill rejects Secretary Carson’s proposal to slash federal housing benefits through harmful rent increases, rigid work requirements, and other barriers to assistance that only make it more difficult for low-income people to climb the economic ladder and live with dignity.
This spending bill provides $75 billion in emergency infrastructure investments, including $49 billion for housing investments. The bill provides $24 billion for public housing capital repairs, which face a $70 billion backlog. The infrastructure provisions also provide $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 updated budget chart.
The House bill misses a unique opportunity to address the systemic and structural causes of homelessness and housing insecurity by failing to invest significant funds in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF). Unlike HOME and CDBG, the HTF is exclusively used to build, preserve, and operate rental housing affordable to extremely low-income households, who are most severely impacted by the housing crisis and the only income group for which there is an national shortage of affordable homes. NLIHC urges the House Appropriations Committee to provide robust investments in the HTF as this bill moves forward. See NLIHC’s infrastructure priorities here.
Tenant-Based Rental Assistance:
The House bill provides $25.739 billion for tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA), including $22.8 billion to renew previous contracts. This is a significant increase over President Trump’s $18.833 billion request for TBRA for FY21. This amount should be adequate to renew existing vouchers, assuming that Congress provides additional funding in a COVID-19 supplemental appropriation to adjust rents for tenants with decreased incomes.
Of the total amount provided, $250 million is for incremental vouchers for families who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless, including $40 million for veterans and their families and $40 million for survivors of power-based or gender-based violence. The House bill ensures that HUD uses a Housing First approach with these funds by prohibiting any requirement for people experiencing homelessness to receive treatment or perform any other prerequisite activities as a condition for receiving shelter, housing, or other services. See the section above (“Key Policy Changes”) for more information on Housing First provisions in this bill.
The bill allocates $20 million for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) and $2.5 million to serve Native American veterans.
The bill provides $310 million for Section 811 mainstream vouchers, the same amount provided in the president’s budget request. The bill also includes $25 million for Family Unification vouchers, the same amount provided in FY20.
Project-Based Rental Housing:
The bill provides $13.451 billion to renew project-based rental assistance contracts for calendar year 2021, an increase of $881 million above the president’s request, and $809 million more than the FY20 funding level. Advocates estimate this amount will be sufficient to renew all contracts, assuming that Congress provides additional funding in a COVID-19 supplemental appropriation to adjust rents for tenants with decreased incomes.
The bill provides the capital account with $3.18 billion, a $311 million increase from the FY20 funding level. This is a significant increase in funding and will enable housing agencies to make critical repairs, such as fixing leaky roofs and replacing outdated heating systems, that will improve living conditions for thousands of residents and help preserve this essential part of the nation’s affordable housing infrastructure for the future. President Trump had proposed slashing funding for this account in his FY21 budget.
Funding for the public housing operating fund also increased to by $100 million to $4.649 billion. The Family Self-Sufficiency program is funded at $105 million, up from $80 million.
The bill increases funding for homeless assistance programs to $3.415 billion, up from $2.777 billion in FY20. The president would have funded the programs at $2.773 billion.
The bill also provides $3.8 million to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The bill includes that no more than $15,000 may be used for travel expenses by the USICH director.
The bill includes several key policy provisions on homelessness to ensure greater protections for trans people seeking shelter and to ensure programs adhere to Housing First (see the “Key Policy Changes” section above for more details).
Other Housing Programs:
The bill proposes $893 million for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, an increase of $100 million from the FY20 funding bill. The bill also increases funding for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program to $227 million, $25 million above FY20 enacted levels. These amounts provide sufficient funding to renew all contracts and provide new construction for both programs.
The bill would increase funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to $3.5 billion, $100 million over FY20 enacted funding, and would provide $1.7 billion for the HOME Investments Partnerships program (HOME), up from $1.35 billion in FY20. Both programs would have been eliminated under the president’s budget request.
Funding for the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program would increase to $430 million, up from $410 million in FY20. The president proposed funding HOPWA at $330 million.
Funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is funded at $250 million. This is an increase of $75 million from last year’s enacted bill, despite receiving no funding in the president’s budget.
The bill provides level funding at $646 million to the Native American Housing Block Grant program and $110 million for competitive grants, an increase of $10 million from FY20. Under the president’s budget, the program would have received $600 million with no additional competitive grant funding. The bill also provides legislative language to ensure the additional competitive funding is targeted to tribes based on need and capacity.
The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program received $4 million in the FY21 House bill, an increase of $2 million from FY20 enacted levels.
The bill provides $340 million to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants, a $50 million increase from FY20.
The bill provides additional funding for HUD’s office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity with $80 million, a $10 million increase from FY20.
The bill also includes legislative language to hold up $71.6 million in Administrative Support Offices funds from the chief financial officer of HUD. The hold on funds will be released once the CFO issues the Electrical Grid notice for Puerto Rico for disaster relief related to Hurricane Maria and Irma. These funds were approved by Congress more than 2 years ago.
The FY21 Agriculture spending bill proposed by the House would largely provide level funding to USDA Rural Housing Service programs, including Section 515 Rural Rental Loan Program ($40 million) and the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) demonstration ($30 million).
The bill provides $1.45 billion for rural rental assistance; of this amount, $40 million would be to provide Section 542 housing vouchers to households living in properties that have prepaid or reached maturity on their USDA financing and therefore are no longer eligible for Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance.