Federal updates & alerts

Since Congress reconvened after its August recess, a lot has been happening at the federal level. Appended below are updates and information on:

• House HUD budget action • Senate HUD and USDA Rural Development budget action • Sign on to support Section 8 Voucher reform (deadline Sept 19) • Sign on to support LIHTC • Proposed FY 12 HUD FMRs • Housing measures included in President’s Jobs Bll • Webinar on impact of Budget Control Act on housing • Third issue of NLIHC’s Tenant Talk • New resource for non-profit advocacy

Though the budget news from DC continues to be bad, know that our congressional delegation is doing everything in its power to fight proposed cuts to housing and community development. Nonetheless, please continue to contact their staff with your stories about how proposed cuts will have a harmful effect on your programs and the Vermonters they serve – especially as the state struggles to recover from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Irene. Together we all need to make sure that federal resources that are already insufficient to meet the needs of low-income and vulnerable Vermonters are not further reduced to help pay for costs associated with recovery from Irene. 

For those who may not have the latest contact information for our hard-working congressional staff that deal with housing, homelessness and community development, here are their email addresses:

Senator Leahy: Lauren Bracket (DC) – Lauren_Brackett@leahy.senate.gov Ted Brady (VT) – Ted_Brady@leahy.senate.gov Chris Saunders (VT) – Chris_Saunders@leahy.senate.gov

Senator Sanders: David Weinstein (VT & DC) – David_Weinstein@sanders.senate.gov

Congressman Welch: Kate Becker (DC) – Kathryn.becker@mail.house.gov Susan Elliott (VT) – susan.elliot@mail.house.gov

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HOUSE T-HUD SUBCOMMITTEE DECREASES HUD FUNDING FOR FY12

Late last week the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 12 bill. The subcommittee’s total for HUD and the Interagency Council on Homelessness is $38.1 billion. While some programs did not fare as badly as one might have expected (CDBG, McKinney, 202, 811), others did far worse (HOME, Public Housing capital and admin, Section 8 admin, Housing Counseling). Here’s a quick summary of housing program funding levels:

• Public Housing Capital Fund: 25% cut below FY11 • HOME program: 25% cut below FY11 • Housing counseling: Not restored after FY11 elimination • Section 8 vouchers: though funding is increased, it is not enough to fund all vouchers in use • Community Development Block Grants: Level with FY11 • McKinney Homeless Assistance Grants: Level with FY11 • Section 202 Housing for the Elderly: 50% increase over FY11 • Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities: 31% increase over FY11 • Veterans vouchers: 50% increase over FY 11 • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS: Level with FY11 • HOPE VI and Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI): Eliminated • Sustainable Communities: Eliminated

To view the proposed House numbers for all HUD programs, click here for the NLIHC’s budget charts.

It should be noted that the cuts are from FY 11 funding levels, which in many cases were already decreased from the previous year.  HOME and Public Housing were the hardest hit. It is as yet unclear how the cut to HOME would affect Vermont, since the House proposal maintains the current minimum threshold for formula allocations. If the combined state and Burlington funding were cut on a percentage basis, it would reduce the state’s resources for permanently affordable housing by almost $1 million from the already reduced FY 11 level of $3.8 million to about $2.9 million. 

Though Section 8 funding is increased, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), it is not enough to fund all voucher renewals, resulting in the loss of assistance to an estimated 42,000 households nationally.  

In addition to the deep cut to the Public Housing Capital Fund, the Public Housing operating and Section 8 admin accounts also sustain deep cuts (16% and 24% respectively from FY 11), while Resident Opportunities and Services (ROSS) is zeroed out. The cuts to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are supposed to be made up at least in part from PHA reserves, but many PHAs, like the VT State Housing Authority, have spent theirs down substantially to keep programs going over the last few years. Cuts of this magnitude mean PHAs will not be able to maintain current units and may have to take some offline. They will likely necessitate lay-offs, making it more difficult to administer Section 8 programs and operate public housing in a safe and sound manner. The cut to the Capital Fund will result in additional deferral of maintenance and capital improvements at a time when our nation’s “housing of last resort” has upwards of 25B in identified capital needs. 

The continued elimination of Housing Counseling funds will substantially reduce core funding for our NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers, CVOEO’s Mobile Home Project, and housing counseling programs at CVCAC, BROC and Opportunities Credit Union. This at a time when these agencies are a key part of the network helping Vermonters to cope with the devastation caused by Irene. HUD also relies heavily on housing counseling  agencies to carry out some of its other programs, especially those related to foreclosure.

While it is good news that CDBG avoids major additional cuts, this is offset by cutting admin from 20% to 10%. HOME admin is capped at 10%. These caps on admin are completely unworkable.  They will cause staff layoffs for entitlement communities and states and will result in fewer CDBG grants for housing, economic development and social services. While it may not be popular to defend public sector employees these days, fewer admin funds will result in fewer staff at the state and local level to carry out the work that HUD requires.

Although the news from the House is NOT good, please bear in mind that the Senate has yet to develop its HUD bill, which will likely have at least somewhat higher funding levels for housing and community development, and will ultimately have to be reconciled with the House.

With the beginning of federal fiscal year 2012 only a few short weeks away, Congress will have to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. The House is expected to propose a short-term CR during the week of September 19 that will provide funding for around one month past the October 1 start of the fiscal year. 

To view NLIHC’s summary of the House T-HUD bill, click here. To view a CBPP article on Section 8, click here. To view a CBPP article on Public Housing cuts, click here. To view the House T-HUD subcommittee bill, summary and tables, click here.

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SENATE BEGINS FY12 APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MARKS UP RURAL HOUSING BILL APPROVES HIGHER FY 12 USDA SPENDING LEVELS THAN THE HOUSE

Also last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee established an overall allocation of $55.25 billion for its T-HUD Subcommittee, which is only $100 million higher than the House’s overall allocation for Transportation, HUD and Related Agencies. This paves the way for anticipated subcommittee mark-up next week. 

Meanwhile, as reported by the Housing Assistance Council (HAC):

“… the full Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a bill to fund USDA in FY12. Almost every program would receive more funding than provided in the House bill passed in June, but less than the final FY11 appropriated amounts. The Section 502 guarantee and Section 538 guarantee programs are notable exceptions: both would be funded at their FY11 levels because USDA expects to collect fees that would make them self-supporting.

“The Senate bill includes victories for self-help housing and rental preservation. The House bill cuts self-help to $22 million from $37 million in FY11, while the Senate provides $30 million. The House bill eliminates funding for Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) but the Senate includes it at $2 million, a sharp drop from the FY11 level of $15 million for this very popular demonstration program…”

The USDA appropriations measure is also not expected to pass before the beginning of the new federal fiscal year, requiring a CR to keep programs running at FY 11 levels.

Click here to view HAC’s budget chart for all USDA-RD programs. Click here to view NLIHC’s summary of Senate budget action. Click here to view the Senate Agriculture bill summary. Click here to view the Senate Agriculture bill.

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SIGN ON IN SUPPORT OF VOUCHER REFORM LEGISLATION

One of NLIHC’s priorities is to enact voucher reform legislation. Reforms in this legislation will save money, simplify rent setting in HUD’s largest programs, and bring a reliable funding system to the voucher program.

To show the broad support this legislation has, we ask your organization to join a sign-on letter to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chair Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL).

The NEW DEADLINE to sign-on is close of business Monday, September 19

To read the NLIHC’s full alert, click here. To read the letter, click here. To sign onto this letter, click here.

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SIGN ONTO CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT & ENHANCE LIHTC

Please join the Affordable Housing Coalition, Housing Vermont and hundreds of national, state and local housing organizations in supporting a national consensus initiative to protect and enhance the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by signing the A.C.T.I.O.N. National Consensus Letter, drafted by ACTION, a broad, national LIHTC coalition. 

The letter asks for support to protect the LIHTC program from tax reform and deficit reduction, and to ask Congress to enact the “flat credit rate” provisions into law. This would (1) make permanent the “fixed floor rate” for the 9% Housing Credit, and (2) make the Housing Credit floor rate for acquisition fixed at no less than 4%. As you may know, until passage of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), the 9% rate fluctuated and was usually actually below 9%.  Unfortunately, this HERA provision will expire for LIHTC units placed in service after 2013 and needs to be made permanent to continue to remove the uncertainty and financial complexity of the floating rate system. The 4% rate still fluctuates and should be stabilized the same as the 9% rate. 

To sign on, please go to A.C.T.I.O.N. website’s “Join the Campaign” page.  Once there, complete the form, and you will receive a follow up e-mail from Rachel Reilly confirming your interest in joining the campaign as a coalition member and as a listed signatory to the National Consensus Letter.  You will also be registered to receive the bi-weekly minutes from the A.C.T.I.O.N. campaign calls. For more information, see the A.C.T.I.O.N. Campaign website

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FMRs TO DROP IN PARTS OF VERMONT UNDER HUD’S PROPOSAL

HUD published proposed FY 12 Fair Market Rents (FMRs) for Vermont in the Federal Register on August 19.  The proposed FMRs for the Burlington-South Burlington MSA, which determine FMRs for Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, are would decrease by 6% for all bedroom sizes. Other decreases include Bennington (6%), Essex (12%), Orange (2%), and Windham (9%) Counties – all across all bedroom sizes. Except for Rutland County, where FMRs would remain unchanged, the remaining counties would see increases of from 1% – 14%.

Some of these changes, especially the ones proposed for the MSA, appear to fly in the face of market realities.  What is driving the changes is unclear, but likely results from HUD methodological changes.  For 2012, HUD re-benchmarked FMRs using five-year, 2005–2009 data collected by the American Community Survey (ACS), with an inflation adjustment factor applied. ACS data usually have wider margins of error in rural areas like Vermont where statistical samples are smaller. HUD is also using less refined recent mover data (since FY2010, it has defined recent movers as those who moved in the prior 24 months, rather than the prior 15 months, due to ACS limitations).

For more information on FMRs, click here. Comments are due by September 19 and may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

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PRESIDENT PROPOSES $15 BILLION TO REBUILD HIGH FORECLOSURE NEIGHBORHOODS

The President’s proposed economic stimulus bill (the American Jobs Act), outlined in a September 8 speech to the nation, includes $15 billion for “a national effort to put construction workers on the job rehabilitating and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses.”  Called “Project Rebuild”, the proposed legislation would build on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which Vermont has used extensively to purchase and renovate foreclosed property and make it permanently affordable. 

In order to better provide financial relief for families, the American Jobs Act will also remove barriers to the Home Affordable Refinance (HARP) Program – an Obama Administration initiative designed to allow homeowners to take advantage of the currently low interest rates when refinancing their mortgages, even if their current mortgage is greater than the value of their home. The President said that he would work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4% – “a step that can put more than $2,000 a year in a family’s pocket, and give a lift to an economy still burdened by the drop in housing prices.” For a New York Times summary of the proposal, click here.  

The approximately $450 billion proposed legislation would also fund a number of tax cuts and other new initiatives, including several of benefit to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Unfortunately, it does NOT include long-sought funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). For more details, click here or here.

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WEBINAR ON WHAT THE BUDGET CONTROL ACT MAY MEAN FOR HOUSING PROGRAMS Tuesday, Sept. 20, 1 – 2 pm

In this free webinar, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP) staff will explain the key elements of the new law, known as the Budget Control Act (BCA), its impact on funding for housing and community development programs in 2012, and how the BCA and the new super-committee on deficit reduction may affect housing funding in future years.  To register, email Shaunya Owens at owens@cbpp.org.  Any registrant who is not a subscriber to our housing e-list must complete this form as well.  Space is limited and registration may close, so register now.  To save costs and make room for as many participants as possible, please register only one person per site and join with others in listening in.  

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THIRD ISSUE OF NLIHC’S TENANT TALK AVAILABLE

Tenant Talk is NLIHC’s newsletter for residents of public housing, assisted tenants, and low income renters and their allies. This issue has information about threats to the National Housing Trust Fund, an interview with a new member of our Board of Directors Ms. Daisy Franklin, and a summary of what is happening around deficit reduction and what advocates can do, plus much more! Click here to read it now!

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NEW RESOURCE FOR NON-PROFIT ADVOCACY PUBLISHED

The Alliance for Justice has released a new resource for nonprofits addressing online organizing and advocacy, Influencing Public Policy in the Digital Age: The Law of Online Lobbying and Election-related Activities. It provides guidelines on the laws and regulations that apply to online advocacy and communication.

It can serve as a guide for the field, communications, and new media staff of 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations on how to engage in online advocacy and stay within the law, and answers the kinds of questions nonprofit staff most often face, such as: may organizations treat their Facebook friends as “members”? What should we do if a candidate or supporter posts something political on our Facebook wall? May 501(c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations use social media for lobbying?

You can download the full resource at www.afj.org/digitalage.

#NLIHC #FederalPolicy #RentalHousing #AdvocacyandPolicy #HUDNews #FederalBudgetFunding #Housing

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