Senate Appropriations Committee housing bill saves doomed affordable housing programs

Committee unanimously approves bill

The Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously approved the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act, which with allots significantly more money to affordable housing programs than what President Donald Trump’s budget requested.

The fiscal year 2018 THUD Senate Appropriations bill provides a total of $60.06 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is $2.41 billion more than in fiscal year 2017 and $12.130 billion more than the president’s budget request.

For the Department of Housing and Urban Development specifically, Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year allotted $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding for the agency, representing an annual decrease of 13.2% and a $6.2 billion cut.

Trump’s proposed budget received a lot of backlash from affordable housing groups since it severely cut funding to affordable housing programs, with one of the biggest groups, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, getting cut completely.

But this new act from the committee swayed from Trump’s proposal. Instead, the act included additional resources to prevent and end homelessness among veterans and youth, as well as to maintain existing rental housing assistance for nearly 5 million households nationwide.

However, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said, “While the bill uses available resources wisely, it still falls short because of the artificial budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act.  Indeed, the funding provided in this bill is still less in nominal terms than it was in 2010. Simply put, we need a need a new deal on the budget."

According to the minority press release, the bill restores critical housing production and economic development programs, which were proposed for elimination in the president’s budget request.

And most notably, the bill gained support from both sides of the aisle, passing unanimously, 31-0.

“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise, and makes the necessary investments in our nation’s infrastructure, helps to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provides funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee and sponsor of the bill.  “Our bill strikes the right balance between thoughtful investment and fiscal restraint, thereby setting the stage for future economic growth.” 

Here’s a spotlight on one program that was slated to be eliminated under Trump’s budget but will survive under the Senate budget. For a full list of what programs will receive funding under the Senate check out a copy of the full bill here.

Trumps budget proposed to end Federal support of Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., also known as NeighborWorks America, and only requested $27.4 million for 2018 solely to prepare for the discontinuation of Federal funding.

NeighborWorks America is a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that supports community development in the United States and Puerto Rico and provides access to homeownership and to safe and affordable rental housing.

But the Senate bill rejected the president’s budget request to provide only wind-down funding for NeighborWorks in fiscal year 2018 and instead provided $140 million, equal to the fiscal year 2017 funding level.

This funding will: support and maintain 39,000 jobs; develop 12,000 new affordable rental housing units to increase the existing portfolio of 156,000 units; provide financial and housing counseling to 110,000 individuals; assist 22,000 new homebuyers in the their first purchase of a home, and preserve homeownership for 10,000 families.

The welcomed news for affordable housing committees might still fall short though. A blog post from Ballard Spahr by y Amber Mohr noted that many speculate neither the Senate nor the House will move their respective THUD bill to the floor. But on the positive side, Mohr said this Senate bill still represents a step in the right direction for those that rely on many HUD programs.

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