Good News on Federal Spending for Housing & Homelessness

Federal spending on affordable housing and preventing and ending homelessness continues to improve!  We are very pleased that on Thursday, July 1, 2010 the House Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its Fiscal Year 2011 spending bill.  This subcommittee oversees funding for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and sets spending levels for federal housing programs.

Some highlights of the appropriations bill include: A 10% increase to $2.055 billion in funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs which serve homeless families and individuals.  While this is great news, estimates indicate that to fully implement the Hearth Act will require $2.4 billion.  The Hearth Act was the 2009 reauthorization of the McKinney Vento act, and it expanded the definition of homelessness; expanded homelessness prevention activities; and increases efforts to serve homeless families and children, among other things.  (Read a summary here.)

The bill also requested $75 million for additional VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers to serve homeless veterans, continued funding for housing programs for seniors and people with disabilities; and increased funding for the tenant based rental assistance program renewals.

The bill does not provide funding for two new HUD initiatives, the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, or PETRA (Preservation, Enhancement and Transformation of Rental Assistance). Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is a HUD proposal to replace HOPE VI, a program which was designed to rehabilitate and replace distressed public housing properties.  PETRA is a proposal by HUD to transform its current programs.  The proposed changes would: streamline its current subsidy programs, change the way public housing is rehabilitated and preserved in the future, and promote resident choice.  Advocates for affordable housing and their residents are concerned about some components of PETRA, while HUD asserts that PETRA will be both beneficial and critical to the future of affordable housing.

Funding for the National Housing Trust Fund was not included in this appropriations bill.  Advocates are still hopeful that the Senate will again consider legislation to fund the Trust Fund through the Tax Extenders Bill (HR 4213).  A $1 billion investment into the Trust Fund would bring over $15 million to Oregon.

What’s next?

The Senate Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee will also markup its Fiscal Year 2011 spending bill.

Want to know more?

If you’re interested in learning more, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Low Income Housing Coalition are both tracking this issue.  Download the NLIHC summary of spending since FY 2005 and proposed FY 2011 levels.