Senate committee approves modest increase in FY 2020 affordable housing spending

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The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a modest increase in affordable housing and community development funding last week for Fiscal Year 2020. It provides $2.3 billion more than FY 2019 funding levels. This is $11.9 billion more than the Trump administration requested in its FY 2020 budget. This is good news for low-income renters, who would have faced severe housing cuts under the Trump FY 2020 proposal.

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance received $23.833 billion dollars. This is enough to renew all current Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) contracts. The bill also sets aside $40 million for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, the same level as the year before. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) received $12.56 million, an increase over FY 2019 levels. This is enough to renew all current Section 8 PBRA contracts.

The Trump administration proposed no FY 2020 funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund. This account pays for major repairs and upgrades to the nation’s aging Public Housing stock. The Senate funding bill provides $2.855 billion for the Capital Fund. This allows Public Housing Agencies to replace boilers, fix roofs, improve safety, and make their properties more energy efficient. 

Another fund called the Public Housing Operating Fund covers the administrative costs to run Public Housing. It pays for things like ongoing maintenance, utilities, property management and reporting. The Senate bill provides $4.65 billion for the Operating Fund. Although this is a slight decrease from FY 2019, it is almost twice as much as the president requested in his budget.

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly received $696 milion, more than $50 million above the Trump request. The Section 811 Supportive Housing for Disabled Persons program received $184 million, the same amount as in FY 2019. Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) received $330 million, a reduction of more than $60 million from what it received the year before.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also increased funding for homelessness programs. The funding bill provides $2.8 billion. $80 million of this is targeted to helping homeless youth in both urban and rural areas.

The Trump administration proposed eliminating two important block grant programs for FY 2020. The Senate funding bill instead provides $3.325 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and $1.250 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership program. Block grants are federal funds that are provided to states to administer themselves. The Community Development Block Grant program supports affordable housing, infrastructure projects and economic revitalization activities. It also supports the Meals on Wheels program in many communities. HOME supports affordable housing development, rental assistance and other activities that benefit renters with the lowest incomes.

The Senate bill also rejects some policy and legislative changes proposed by the Trump administration. These include rejecting rent increases, work requirements and time limits for people receiving federal housing assistance. Unlike the House version, though, the Senate does not address evicting families with mixed immigration status or removing fair housing protections for homeless LGBTQ persons.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved FY 2020 funding for rural housing programs administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They proposed funding at the same level as last year for the Section 515 Rural Rental Housing and Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing programs. In contrast, president Trump proposed eliminating these programs that provide affordable apartments to rural residents with the lowest incomes. Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance also received the same amount as the year before, which should cover all contract renewals.

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has a chart that shows funding amounts for every affordable housing program here. Affordable Housing Online shows how the proposed cuts in Trump’s FY 2020 budget would affect your community here.

The next step is for the bill to go before the full Senate, where it should be approved with only slight changes. After that, it has to be reconciled with the FY 2020 funding already approved by the House. The House bill amounts are generally higher than the Senate bill, and also exceed the amounts in a bipartisan two-year spending deal that raised budget caps for FY 2020 and FY 2021.

The House has passed all 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the government through FY 2020. The Senate has not passed any funding bills yet, and FY 2019 ends on September 30th. Because time is running short, the House passed a bipartisan continuing resolution to keep the federal government open through November 21. A continuing resolution is a short-term funding measure. The Senate will likely approve the continuing resolution this week.

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