Federal Housing News
June 20, 2016
Senate Bill Would Eliminate Nearly All Federal Housing Programs
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the “Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act” (S. 3047) that would eliminate nearly all federal affordable housing programs by consolidating them into a state block grant. S. 3047 is the Senate companion to H.R. 5360, introduced by Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) (See Memo 6/6). The bill would prohibit Congress from funding means-tested housing programs beginning in 2017.
Coalition on Human Needs Hosts Briefing on Alleviating Poverty and Expanding Opportunity
The Coalition on Human Needs, in conjunction with cosponsors including NLIHC, hosted a Congressional briefing Thursday, June 16 entitled “What Works - and What Doesn’t - to Reduce Poverty and Expand Opportunity.” Speakers and panelists critiqued the House Republican anti-poverty plan and discussed a broad range of evidence-based poverty-reduction measures they hoped would be implemented in the future.
Amendments to CJS Spending Bill Would Undermine Fair Housing and Census Bureau Funding
During Senate consideration of the FY17 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill, several senators filed amendments that would undermine the Fair Housing Act and funding for the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, the House and Senate have decided not to include the FY17 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill in the negotiations over a spending package that provides funding for Zika aid and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
HUD Issues Proposed Rule to Use Small Area Fair Market Rents
HUD published a proposed rule to use Small Area Fair Market Rents (Small Area FMRs) instead of 50th Percentile FMRs as a means to deconcentrate the use of Housing Choice vouchers in select metropolitan areas. Small Area FMRs reflect rents for U.S. Postal ZIP Codes, while traditional FMRs reflect a single rent standard for an entire metropolitan region. The proposed rule, published in the Federal Register on June 16, would apply to tenant-based vouchers, as well as to project-based vouchers approved after the effective date of the Small Area FMR designation. Small Area FMRs would not apply to other HUD programs. The goal is to provide voucher payment standards that are more in line with neighborhood-scale rental markets, resulting in relatively higher subsidies in neighborhoods with higher rents and greater opportunities, and lower subsidies in neighborhoods with lower rents and concentrations of voucher holders.
HUD Makes Changes to Interim Continuums of Care Rule
HUD has made two amendments to the current interim Continuum of Care (CoC) program regulations. One amendment allows individuals and families to choose to live outside of a CoC’s geographic area while keeping their tenant-based rental assistance funded through the CoC program under certain conditions. The other amendment exempts CoC recipients and subrecipients from complying with all non-statutory regulations when a program participant moves outside of the CoC’s geographic area in order to flee from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Survey Finds Widespread Support for Affordable Housing
The MacArthur Foundation released findings from its 2016 How Housing Matters Survey on June 16. Eighty-one percent of respondents believed that housing affordability is a problem, and 68% believed that securing stable, affordable housing is more challenging today than it was for previous generations. The results also indicate strong support for solutions that address the nation’s housing problems.
Federal Housing Expenditures Disproportionately Benefit Higher Income Homeowners
A publication by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), titled Chart Book: Federal Housing Spending Is Poorly Matched to Need, illustrates the extent to which federal housing expenditures disproportionately benefit higher income homeowners, while leaving 75% of qualified low income renters without housing assistance. Seven million households with annual incomes greater than $200,000 received at least $83 billion in federal housing expenditures in 2014, while the 55 million households with incomes less than $50,000 received $30.2 billion. Households with annual incomes above $200,000 receive an average benefit more than four times greater than the average benefit received by households with annual incomes below $20,000. Approximately 70% of the $190 billion in federal housing expenditures last year went to homeowners.
Much More Needs to be Done to House Homeless Students
A report by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates, Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools, analyzes the increase in housing instability among children in public schools. The McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act was passed thirty years ago to provide infrastructure and supports to homeless families with children, but much more needs to be done to assist the more than 1 million school-aged (K-12) students experiencing homelessness. The report details the scope of mental and physical health challenges homeless students face, issues that are largely unseen and ineffectively addressed by school support services. Schools are inadequately connecting homeless students to housing.
Homeownership, healthy homes, and 502 guarantee program celebrated in June. HUD declared National Homeownership Month and also the first National Healthy Homes Month. USDA is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the first Section 502 guaranteed loan.
Republican poverty plan released. The poverty reduction portion of A Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America, released by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on June 7, focuses on work requirements, increased program control at the state and local level, measurable results, and reduction of fraud and abuse. As an example of programs that could be consolidated, the plan states that “the rental assistance program of the Rural Housing Service (RHS) is similar to HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program,” without noting that rural RA is tied to RHS-financed properties. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic poverty task force chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued critical responses. Other portions of A Better Way address national security, the economy, and – to be released June 16 or later – separation of powers, health care, and tax reform.
USDA RD launches two-tiered income limit pilot. For the Section 502 direct and guaranteed programs and Section 504 loans and grants, 23 states and territories will use HUD’s four-person income limit to qualify households with one to four people, and HUD’s eight-person income level for households with five to eight people. Intended to address situations where low income limits keep families from qualifying, the change will allow more families to qualify for the programs. Contact an RD state office.
Administration objects to Senate’s proposed FY17 funding for 2020 Census preparation. On June 14 the Obama Administration threatened to veto S. 2837, the FY17 Commerce/Justice/Science appropriations bill, for several reasons, including inadequate funding for development of design changes to save money in carrying out the 2020 Census. The bill is being considered on the Senate floor this week. The House version, H.R. 5393, has not yet been taken up by the full House.
Nine new Promise Zones include four tribal/rural zones. On June 6 the Administration announced its final Promise Zone selections, which include the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington, the Pride of the Great Plains Promise Zone (led by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) in North Dakota Southwest Florida, and Eastern Puerto Rico.
HUD proposes mobility for CoC renters. Comments are due August 15 on an interim rule that would allow some recipients of Continuum of Care tenant-based rental assistance to choose housing outside their CoC’s geographic area. It also offers some regulatory exemptions when a program participant moves to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Contact Norm Suchar, HUD, 202-708-4300.
USDA finalizes broadband rule changes. The Rural Utility Service adopted without changes the July 30, 2015 interim final rule that governs broadband loans and guarantees. Contact Keith Adams, RUS, 202-720-9554.
Small Area FMRs proposed to increase voucher choices. HUD suggests using zip code level Fair Market Rents in some metro areas, so assistance would match higher rents in places with high opportunity. Comments are due August 15. Contact Peter B. Kahn, HUD, 202-402-2409.
FEMA offers guidance on disaster recovery program. Comments are due August 1 on a draft Individuals and Households Program Unified Guidance describing the policies for the IHP, which includes housing aid. The guidance is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for states, territorial and tribal governments, and other entities that assist disaster survivors. A separate guide will be available for survivors. Contact Johnathan Torres, FEMA, 202-212-1079.
Research analyzes factors for unstable housing among former prisoners. The National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan found that higher earnings and social support from parents and romantic partners were the most effective buffers against residential insecurity among former prisoners, while forced moves to correctional facilities correlated with future residential instability. “Residential Instability among the Formerly Incarcerated” reports that parolees moved an average of 2.6 times per year, while housing experts define unstable housing as one or more moves each year.
Number of families with children receiving HUD rental aid falling. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports in “Rental Assistance to Families with Children at Lowest Point in Decade” that the number of families with children receiving such aid has fallen by over 250,000 (13%) since 2004, while need has risen. The total number of households receiving HUD rental assistance rose slightly between 2004 and 2015, probably because some continue receiving aid after their children have grown up or left home (in about half of these cases, the household heads were disabled or elderly by 2015), and because new vouchers have been targeted primarily to homeless veterans and people with disabilities.