In our most recent (January 17) national call for the “HoUSed: Universal, Stable, and Affordable Homes” campaign, we discussed the outlook for the new legislative session, heard about findings from a report on San Francisco’s shelter-in-place program, received field updates from advocates in Ohio and Minnesota, and shared how to get involved in NLIHC’s 2023 “Tenant Talk Live” webinar series.
NLIHC Policy Manager Kim Johnson led the first call of the new year with a discussion about what to expect during the 118th Congress. With Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats in control of the Senate, any bill enacted will need bipartisan support in both chambers to pass. The House adopted a new rules package that includes several reforms prioritizing spending cuts and tax breaks, including replacing the previous Congress’ Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) budget rule with a Cut-As-You-Go (CUTGO) rule. PAYGO required the legislature to offset any increase to the federal deficit with either spending cuts or increased taxes, while CUTGO only requires offsets if a proposal will increase mandatory spending, allowing Congress to enact tax cuts that add to the deficit without offsets. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has also vowed to slash federal spending on non-defense programs by capping fiscal year (FY) 2024 appropriations at FY22 levels, which would result in an estimated $130 billion cut to non-defense programs.
Dr. Maria Raven from the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative and Dr. Mark Fleming from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health shared findings from their report, “Association of Shelter-in-Place Hotels With Health Services Use Among People Experiencing Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The study evaluated the impact of the shelter-in-place hotel program on health services use for people experiencing homelessness, who have a high rate of acute medical services use. Each person participating was given non-congregate shelter with access to their own bedroom, bathroom, three meals a day, and an onsite-medical clinic, as well as transportation to off-site clinics. Their findings indicated that using hotels as non-congregate shelters mitigated COVID-19 risks and reduced the use of acute care by people experiencing homelessness.
Amy Riegel, executive director of the Ohio Coalition on Homelessness and Housing, discussed the ramifications of a provision in the Ohio General Assembly’s omnibus appropriations bill that changes the way county auditors evaluate the value of affordable housing. The new methods allow market rate rents and other property tax appraisals to be considered and limit the use of both state tax credits and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) at the same time. The bill also limits the use of emergency rental assistance (ERA) so that it may only be used to pay for utilities and rent incurred before December 2021 and states that Ohio must use remaining ERA funds by December 2023. Riegel argued that the state legislature must continue to appropriate ERA dollars without these stipulations in order to protect tenants with low incomes.
Minnesota Housing Partnership Communications Director Jenny Jones rang in the new legislative session with the Start With Home Rally, meant to signal the importance of housing to state lawmakers. The event featured Native speakers, advocates, and people with lived experience, as well as the support of 80 local businesses and community organizations. Jones noted that with Democrats in control of the House, Senate, and the Governor’s office in Minnesota, there is a momentous opportunity to prioritize housing in the upcoming legislative period.
Sid Betancourt, NLIHC housing advocacy organizer, rounded out the call with a description of NLIHC’s upcoming “Tenant Talk Live” series for 2023. Tenant Talk Live provides an opportunity for tenants and residents to connect with one another, NLIHC, and other advocates and learn how to get involved in influencing federal housing policies. Join us on February 6 at 6 pm ET for the next Tenant Talk Live, which will focus on international models of housing justice, and make sure to sign up for our semi-annual Tenant Talk newsletter. The new issue, “Advancing Tenant Protections: Building Tenant Power to Achieve Renter Equity,” will be released on February 9.
Our next HoUSed campaign call will be held on January 31 at 2:30 pm ET. Register for the call at: https://bit.ly/3iQU1Qy