Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Blogger Toby Halliday: Good News for Preserving Affordable Housing

On July 27, 2010, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 4868, an omnibus affordable housing preservation bill to help stem the loss of affordable apartments and prevent the displacement of low-income tenants, many of who are elderly or disabled. The legislation ensures that all low and moderate-income tenants living in properties with low-cost HUD financing and rent restrictions get vouchers when those mortgages mature, and that those vouchers can be used to support long-term affordability of the property.

The bill includes sections to preserve and revitalize Section 515 rural rental housing and to streamline the refinancing and recapitalization of Section 202 elderly housing. It also establishes a preservation database to help local governments, preservation purchasers, and residents identify and save at-risk properties.

Last-minute changes made in response to private industry concerns modified a provision providing for the purchase of HUD-assisted housing at fair market value by vesting this option with state housing agencies instead of HUD; limited state and local preservation laws protected from federal pre-emption; and limited property information that can be made available to residents, excluding all personal and proprietary information. The Committee also struck a provision allowing residents to escrow their rents to ensure owners fix building violations: a HUD study of the issue was approved instead.

The Committee also adopted amendments offered by Rep. Tom Price to allow residents to own guns in Section 8 properties and to require documentation of citizenship, including a Social Security card or passport. This language is strenuously opposed by members concerned about its likely impact on eligible residents who don’t have a Social Security card or birth certificate, including the elderly, frequent movers or individuals who weren’t born in hospitals.

The difficulty of moving legislation makes enactment of the entire bill unlikely this year, but the National Housing Trust and other advocates will continue to work for adoption of this important legislation.

Toby Halliday is vice president of NHC member the National Housing Trust. The National Housing Trust preserves and revitalizes affordable apartments to better the quality of life for the families and elderly who live there.

Image: Toby Halliday, via nhtinc.org

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