House Panel Advances FY17 THUD Spending Bill

By Elayne Weiss, Policy Analyst

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) approved its FY17 spending bill on May 18 by a voice vote. Much like the Senate version of the bill, the House proposal is better than expected and should provide sufficient funding to ensure continued assistance to all households currently served by HUD. House appropriators were able to avoid major cuts and increase funding for a few programs.

The bill includes no negative policy or funding decisions related to the national Housing Trust Fund, a stark departure from last year’s House THUD Subcommittee bill which proposed raiding the HTF to fill a funding gap.

Overall, the funding levels for HUD programs proposed in the bill are fairly similar to those included in the Senate bill, with some notable exceptions, reflecting the different priorities between the two chambers. However, unlike the Senate, the House THUD Subcommittee largely excluded policy proposals, such as expanding the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) and initiatives to reduce lead paint hazard, from the bill.

The House THUD Subcommittee received an allocation of $58.2 billion to fund important housing and transportation programs, an increase of $889 million over the FY16 allocation. Of this amount, HUD will receive $38.7 billion, $384 million more than last year’s level, but below the amount provided in the Senate version of the bill, $39.2 billion.

THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Mario Diaz-Balart stated, “We were able to make these vital investments in transportation systems and communities because of the very generous allocation to this subcommittee.”

Homelessness

Homeless assistance programs received a large increase in funding when compared to the Senate version of the bill: $2.487 billion versus $2.3 billion. This also represents a $237 million increase over FY16 funding levels. The bill does not specifically target funds to address youth homelessness, but does require HUD to collect performance measures of each continuum of care that will influence how future funds are distributed.

Tenant Based Rental Assistance

Despite providing less funding than the Senate ($18.312 billion compared to $18.355 billion), House appropriators maintain that this amount is sufficient to renew existing housing choice vouchers. The House also chose not to allocate any money towards new Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers, and only provided $7 million towards Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers specifically targeted to Native American veterans.

The bill does not include funding for the Obama Administration’s proposed housing choice voucher mobility demonstration designed to encourage families to move to lower-poverty areas and expand access to areas of opportunity. The Senate provided $11 million for the demonstration.

Project Based Rental Housing

Like the Senate version of the bill, the House 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.

Public Housing

The House decided to flat fund both public housing accounts in FY17. The Senate has proposed increasing funding for both. Under the House bill, the operating fund and capital account would receive $4.5 billion and $1.9 billion respectively.

The bill does not increase the number of public housing units that can convert under the RAD.

Other Housing Programs

For certain housing programs, the House bill provides the same level of funding proposed in the Senate bill. That includes $505 million for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, enough to renew all contracts, and $154 million for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program, $3 million over the FY16 level. The House bill does not include language allowing Section 202 Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) properties to convert under RAD.

Like the Senate, the House bill flat funds the HOME Investments Partnerships program ($950 million), the Community Development Block Grant program ($3 billion), and the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program ($335 million). The House bill does not update the HOPWA formula.

While funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative was cut in both bills, the House overall provided more funding for the program in FY17 ($100 million compared to $80 million). The program received $125 million in FY16.

Additionally, the bill provides $130 million to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants, a $20 million increase.

Next Steps

The full Appropriations Committee will likely debate the bill and amendments offered by committee members sometime next week. Policy riders will loom large, including trucking safety provisions and language potentially added as an amendment preventing HUD from implementing its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.

 

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