The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing on October 26 to consider the nominations of Brian D. Montgomery to serve as assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner, Robert Hunter Kurtz to serve as the assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing (PIH), and Suzanne Israel Tufts to serve as assistant secretary for administration.
Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) used his opening remarks to discuss the affordable housing crisis and the importance of HUD programs. “The gap between housing costs and wages has grown wider over the past decade,” Senator Brown said. “Over half a million Americans face homelessness on any given night. A quarter of all renters pay more than half of their incomes towards rent. That makes the [nominees’] job and the job of HUD even more essential.”
Several members of the committee asked Mr. Kurtz about how the deep budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration would impact HUD’s ability to serve those currently receiving or in need of assistance. Senator Brown pointed out that such cuts undermine public-private partnerships—the very thing HUD Secretary Carson has said is the answer to solving our nation’s housing crisis. Senator John Tester (D-MT) said that there was not enough affordable housing in his state, which impacts the ability of communities to recruit new business. He added that new affordable homes would not be built if not for federal support through programs like the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)—programs the Trump administration proposes to eliminate. He asked the nominees to push back hard on the proposed cuts.
Mr. Kurtz responded that the Trump budget proposal was the administration’s first attempt to start a conversation around reforming public housing to make the program sustainable in the long run. He said his experience working for the City of Detroit taught him that people need to be creative in finding other resources at the state and local level to make up for cuts to federal spending.
The nominees also voiced support for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, with Mr. Montgomery pointing to the program’s bipartisan support, and for legislation introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orin Hatch (R-UT) to expand the program.
Senators also spoke about the need to reform the housing finance system and the role of the Housing Finance Administration in that process. They said that the current status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was not a sustainable long-term solution and hoped that bipartisan efforts to reform the housing finance system would prove successful. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) mentioned that he hoped those reforms include a clearly identifiable fee to support affordable housing for both renters and first-time homebuyers.
Watch and learn more about the hearing at: http://bit.ly/2xqllID