The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its FY17 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill on April 21 by unanimous consent, 30 to 0. The Appropriations THUD Subcommittee had approved the bill on April 19. The Committee sailed through consideration of the bill, voting on only one bipartisan package of amendments primarily concerned with non-binding report language. The bill can now go to the Senate floor, perhaps as early as this week.
When accounting for certain rescissions and estimated receipts, the THUD allocation is $1.4 billion more than in FY16. Given the tight constraints on federal spending, the HUD allocations in the bill are better than expected. HUD will receive $39.2 billion, an increase of nearly $891 million from FY16. There are no major cuts, and a few programs received funding increases. Importantly, the spending levels in the bill should allow for continued assistance to all households currently served by HUD programs.
Tenant Based Rental Assistance
According to the Committee, the bill provides sufficient funding to renew existing Housing Choice vouchers. It allocates $57 million for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), $7 million of which is to serve Native American veterans, and $20 million to support more than 2,500 new Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers. The bill would extend the eligibility age for FUP vouchers from 21 to 24 and replace the 18-month timeline for youth vouchers with a more administratively manageable 36-month timeline.
The Committee would provide $11 million to a new Housing Choice voucher mobility demonstration designed to encourage families to move to lower-poverty, higher opportunity areas. The bill tasks HUD with establishing selection criteria and participation requirements.
Project Based Rental Housing
The bill provides $10.901 billion to renew all project-based rental assistance contracts for calendar year 2017, an increase of $85 million from the FY16 funding level.
Both public housing accounts received increases. The operating fund allocation rose from $4.569 billion in FY16 to $4.7 billion, and the capital fund allocation increased from $1.9 billion to $1.925 billion to help address lead-based paint hazards in public housing. To provide more financial flexibility, the bill would allow public housing authorities to set up and maintain replacement reserves that have longer deadlines for obligating funds. HUD is expected to move quickly in setting up the rules and requirements that apply to replacement reserves to ensure funds are being saved for and spent on needed capital projects.
The bill increases the number of public housing units that can convert under the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program from 185,000 to 250,000 and does away with the program’s sunset date. The bill includes language to protect tenants’ rights to continue to live in their apartments once their building converts under the RAD program.
Finally, the bill’s report strongly encourages HUD to update its rules related to over-income tenants to better identify and transition those households out of public housing.
The Committee increased funding for homeless assistance programs to $2.3 billion from $2.25 billion in FY16. The bill targets $40 million to address youth homelessness and waives the requirement that youth 24 years of age and under provide third-party documentation to receive housing and supportive services within the Continuums of Care. The bill extends the authorization for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which is set to expire this year, by one additional year.
Other Housing Programs
The bill provides $505 million to the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, enough to renew all contracts, and increases funding for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program to $154 million, $3 million over the FY16 level. The bill also includes language allowing Section 202 Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) properties to convert under RAD and provides $4 million for those properties to do so.
The bill would level-fund the HOME Investments Partnerships program at $950 million, the Community Development Block Grant program at $3 billion, and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program at $335 million. The bill would also update and improve the HOPWA funding formula to better target resources to people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative was cut from $125 million to $80 million.
The bill provides $135 million to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants, a $25 million increase over FY16, and proposes initiatives to address lead-based paint hazards in affordable housing. These include reforms to current policies, quality controls for physical inspections, and expanded HUD oversight and enforcement. Among other things, the bill and its report direct HUD to revise its blood lead intervention regulations to reflect the blood levels used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allow studio and efficiency apartments to be eligible for grants to address lead-based paint hazards. The bill increases staffing resources to better enforce HUD’s lead-based paint regulations in certain properties.
The bill also takes steps to address the physical conditions of HUD-assisted housing to ensure residents are living in decent and safe homes.
To compare funding levels in the Senate THUD FY17 Appropriations bill, the FY16 enacted levels, and President Obama’s budget request, see NLIHC’s updated chart at http://bit.ly/1SowzjU