November 3, 2015

In Case You Missed It: A Look at Recent National Housing Policy News

House Housing Subcommittee Considers Chairman's Housing Reform Bill
The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance on October 21 held a hearing entitled “The Future of Housing in America: Federal Reforms that Create Housing Opportunity,” focused on the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, H.R. 3700, which Subcommittee Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced earlier in October.  As NCSHA reported at that time, H.R. 3700 combines relatively noncontroversial policy changes from several individual housing bills that enjoy bipartisan support, including simplifying the project-based voucher program, permanently authorizing the USDA Multifamily Housing Revitalization Program, streamlining preservation under the Low-Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act, making improvements to HUD’s Family Unification Program to help youth aging out of foster care, and authorizing a pay-for-success demonstration program to improve water and energy efficiency in HUD-assisted multifamily developments.

HOME Coalition Report and Briefing Raises HOME's Profile in Congress
The HOME Coalition, which NCSHA chairs, unveiled its just-released report, Building HOME: The HOME Investment Partnerships Program’s Impact on America’s Families and Communities, at a briefing on the Hill for members of Congress and their staff. The first-of-its kind report analyzes HOME’s housing and economic impact at the national and state levels.  The briefing was standing room only, with more than 65 congressional staff members from both sides of the aisle and both chambers attending. Many of the congressional staff in the room work for the Appropriations Committees or in the personal offices of Appropriations Committee members.  The strong showing indicates that, thanks to NCSHA’s and our HOME Coalition allies’ advocacy efforts, members of Congress and their staff are paying attention to what happens to HOME.

House Financial Services Committee Examines HUD Outcomes Over the Department's 50 Year History
The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled, "The Future of Housing in America: 50 Years of HUD and its Impact on Federal Housing Policy" to review the effectiveness of HUD programs since the Department was established half a century ago.  Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said in his opening statement that though HUD has had notable achievements in the past 50 years, poverty is still endemic in America. He contended that HUD needs not only to provide housing, but to empower recipients to pursue happiness and proposed that new metrics must be established to determine progress, the regulatory burden accompanying HUD programs must be eased, and educational opportunity must be provided to program recipients to empower them to escape intergenerational poverty.

Rural Development Hearing Highlights Rental Assistance Contract Challenges
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies held a hearing titled “Review of Rural Development in 21st Century America” on October 21. Witnesses in the two-panel hearing included US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) officials and industry stakeholders.  The hearing focused on RD programs including Rural Utilities Service and Rural Housing Services (RHS).   During the first panel, Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) asked RD Undersecretary Lisa Mensah if USDA had underestimated its rental assistance renewal needs for Section 515 rural rental housing and Sections 514 and 516 farm labor housing, as laid out in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget request. Mensah acknowledged that funding rental assistance was an ongoing challenge and testified that requirements forcing USDA to submit budget requests two years in advance are partly to blame for the discrepancy. Chairman Moran urged Mensah to work with the Subcommittee to provide more accurate forecasts, explaining that appropriations bills have a fixed amount of funding to work from and this would affect other USDA programs.

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