Federal Housing News
September 12, 2016
House Committee Holds Hearing on Improving Voucher Mobility
The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing on September 21 to explore ways to make the housing voucher program more efficient and to increase upward economic mobility. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the GOP anti-poverty task force had previously identified the need to enhance the portability of housing assistance vouchers and reform the “fragmented” system of thousands of public housing agencies (PHAs) “to encourage recipients to move to areas with more affordable housing, education, or job opportunities.” Witnesses offered a variety of proposals, including encouraging public housing agencies to form consortia, applying small area fair market rents, and deregulation.
Senate Committee Discusses HUD Inspection Fraud and Landlord Negligence
The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development held a hearing on September 22 concerning negligence, health concerns, and fraudulent inspections by Global Ministries Foundation (GMF) and HUD. In 2015 Eureka Gardens, an apartment complex in Florida, passed its July HUD inspection with a score of 91%. However, reports indicated the housing complex was not fit for human habitation.
Senator Wyden Proposes a Middle Income Housing Tax Credit Program
On September 22, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) released a discussion draft of legislation to create a new federal tax program. Senator Wyden's Middle Income Housing Tax Credit—modeled off of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit—is designed to provide incentives to developers who build or preserve rental housing affordable to households earning 100% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Wyden has invited stakeholders, members of Congress, federal officials and others to review the draft legislation and submit comments on a variety of issues, including the proposed income limits. All comments should be submitted to MIHTC@finance.senate.gov.
Congressman Introduces Disaster Tax Relief Bill, Includes Increased LIHTC Allocation
On September 22, Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA) introduced H.R. 6137, the Louisiana Flood and Storm Devastation Tax Relief Act of 2016, to provide victims of severe storms and flooding with tax relief as they recover from damage to their home and property.
On Brink of Government Shutdown, Senate Republicans Release CR Text, Include Emergency Funding for Louisiana Flood Recovery
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was again forced to push back a procedural vote on a stopgap funding measure last week, after Senators remain unable to reach an agreement on how to fund the federal government. Congress now has less than a week to pass the measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), before the last day of the fiscal year (September 30) to avert a government shutdown. Leader McConnell has rescheduled the vote for tomorrow afternoon.
Senate Committee Discusses Alternatives to Place-Based Rental Assistance
The Senate Transportation-HUD (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on September 21 to discuss ways to reduce costs in federal housing programs. At the center of the discussion was a proposal to convert public housing and project-based rental assistance into housing vouchers. Witnesses included San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard Gentry, University of Virginia Professor of Economics and Public Policy Edgar Olsen, and Urban Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives Erika Poethig.
Could Budget Reform Lead To Fixing the Mortgage Interest Deduction?
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget hosted a Congressional briefing on September 19 related to reforming the federal budget process, with a keynote speech by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY). Panelists included Charles Konigsberg from the Federal Budget Group, Roy Meyers from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Dr. F. Stevens Redburn from George Washington University, and Ed Lorenzen from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
HUD Issues Interim Evaluation of RAD
HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research issued an interim evaluation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD). Because the demonstration is still in its early stages, the evaluation focused on the reasons public housing agencies (PHAs) chose certain public housing projects to convert to Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) or Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA). The study found that projects chosen for RAD conversion were more likely to have higher per-unit operating subsidies and lower per-unit expenses, and were not necessarily those with the greatest needs for capital improvements.
USDA Releases New Tool to Help Identify At-Risk Properties
USDA released a new tool on September 19 to help communities and advocates identify affordable housing developments at risk of leaving USDA’s portfolio once the property’s USDA loan matures. Once a USDA loan is paid in full, owners are under no obligation to maintain the properties as affordable housing, and tenants living in these properties will no longer be eligible for USDA rental assistance.
No Vote on Criminal Justice Reform before Elections
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that the House will not take a vote on criminal justice reform before the November elections. So far, the House Judiciary Committee has approved several criminal justice reform bills, but it remains unclear whether these bills will reach the House floor during this congressional session. While Speaker Ryan has indicated that he may take up some of the bills during the lame duck session in November, other lawmakers are starting to look ahead to 2017.
Homelessness Prevention Programs Improve Outcomes and Save Money
A study published in Science by William Evans, James Sullivan, and Melanie Wallskog titled The Impact of Homelessness Prevention Programs on Homelessness finds that temporary financial assistance to families at imminent risk of homelessness reduces the likelihood that they will enter a homeless shelter by 76%. The benefits of the temporary financial assistance, including lower shelter costs, lower costs of other public services, and better educational and health outcomes, outweigh the costs.
Continuing resolution likely to run to December 9. Congressional leaders are still working to resolve differences regarding the contents of a CR to keep the government operating when the fiscal year ends on September 30. The measure will also fund other items such as Zika virus control and Louisiana flood relief; a letter from OMB Director Shaun Donovan to key members of Congress requests $2.6 billion in emergency CDBG funding for Louisiana.
Census Bureau surveys yield differing conclusions about nonmetro economic growth. On September 13 the Census Bureau released Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015, showing improvements in poverty rates and median incomes from 2014 to 2015 both nationwide and in metro areas, but no statistically significant change in nonmetro areas. The data came from the Current Population Survey, which used different boundaries for metro and nonmetro areas in 2014 than in 2015, making the year-to-year comparison unreliable. On September 16, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of data from the American Community Survey, a larger sample that used consistent boundaries, showed incomes grew 3.4% in nonmetro areas and 3.6% in metro. CBPP found poverty rates dropped by almost 1% in both, to 17.2% in nonmetro places and 14.3% in metro areas.
USDA releases database of rural multifamily loans and projected “exit” dates. HAC recently published an analysis of data on maturity dates of mortgages in USDA’s multifamily portfolio and an interactive map of the properties (see HAC News, 9/8/16). Now USDA has released the loan level data to the public in spreadsheet form.
Final rule addresses harassment in housing. HUD has set formal standards in its fair housing regulations to be used when someone complains of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. The rule specifies how HUD will evaluate complaints of quid pro quo harassment and hostile environment harassment under the Fair Housing Act, defines the terms, and clarifies direct and vicarious liability in the Fair Housing Act context. Contact Lynn Grosso, HUD, 202-402-5361.
HUD mandates program access based on gender identity. A final rule, effective on October 21, requires providers that operate single-sex projects using funds from HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development to provide all individuals with access to programs, benefits, services, and accommodations in accordance with their gender identity without being subjected to intrusive questioning or being asked to provide documentation. Contact Norm Suchar, HUD, 202-708-4300.
House and Senate hearings consider HUD changes. On September 21 the House Financial Services Committee’s Housing Subcommittee held a session called “The Future of Housing in America: A Better Way to Increase Efficiencies for Housing Vouchers and Create Upward Economic Mobility,” and a Senate Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee hearing was entitled “Housing Vulnerable Families and Individuals: Is There a Better Way?” Both focused largely on ways to reduce administrative costs and facilitate tenant self-sufficiency. Some members pointed out that small rural PHAs may face particular challenges to consolidating or forming consortia.
Tenant services are not allowable RD project expenses. In an August 8, 2016 Unnumbered Letter USDA RD reminds stakeholders that tenant services cannot be charged against project income in the operating budgets of Section 514 and 515 properties. It encourages service provision using other funding sources. Contact an RD State Office.
Nonprofits and public bodies can buy some Section 502 homes. An Unnumbered Letter dated August 26, 2016 explains when these organizations can purchase in voluntary short sales by homeowners or RD REO sales. Community Facilities financing may be an option for properties in communities with populations up to 20,000. Contact Barry Ramsey, RD, 202-720-5378.
Report addresses rural affordable housing credit. “Opportunities for Promoting Credit for Affordable Housing in Rural America” follows a May roundtable convened by the White House Rural Council and USDA’s Rural Housing Service and facilitated by the Center for American Progress. HAC was among the participants. Identified opportunities fell into categories such as addressing issues of scale, providing capital, preserving and producing affordable rental housing, providing rental assistance, promoting manufactured housing, supporting CDFIs, and distributing more information to affect outcomes.
Research finds disconnect between experts’ and public’s understandings of healthy housing. The complex set of cultural models the public uses to make sense of housing does not always match experts’ views, according to the FrameWorks Institute’s “A House, a Tent, a Box”: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Healthy Housing. Experts in the field explain housing problems based on structural or systemic factors, FrameWorks reports, while members of the public focus on individual responsibility. The researchers suggest that a change in how the media portrays and frames the issue of housing could foster better understanding of housing issues, raise the salience of these issues in public thinking, and generate support for needed policies.
Guidance set for independent students’ access to Section 8. HUD’s revisions to guidance issued in 2006 expand the definition of “independent student” consistent with the Department of Education’s definition. Contact Rebecca L. Primeaux, HUD, 202-402-6050.