Thursday, May 14, 2015

House Appropriations Committee approves FY 2016 THUD bill

By Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

On May 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill. The mark-up session led to five amendments, but none made substantive changes to the bill. Much of the discussion at the mark-up echoed remarks from the subcommittee hearing but with more discussion of the need for sequestration relief and the lack of agreement among the committee to pass a bill that set spending levels above the Budget Control Act caps.

Subcommittee Chair Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) described the bill as “balanced” because it would keep most HUD programs equivalent with FY 2015 funding levels and that funding was sufficient to continue to provide HUD assisted housing. He discussed how the committee had to make strategic reductions to capital programs to meet the caps. Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) discussed how the bill contained the best possible choices given the spending constraints and contained responsible reductions to lower priority programs. He also stated that all families currently served will remain served. In fact, housing agencies are restoring vouchers lost in previous years’ cuts by using the additional funds received in 2014 and 2015, so the total renewal need is still unknown. HUD estimates an additional $848 million will be needed to renew funding for those restored vouchers, an amount not provided by the House FY 2016 THUD bill.

Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) had a different response to the bill, stating the bill’s funding levels were totally inadequate and $1.5 billion below what HUD programs need for FY 2016. Ranking Member Price (D-N.C.) then discussed sequestration, making several observations:
  • The current approach to reducing government spending fails to address the true causes of the deficit: tax expenditures and mandatory spending.
  • Different measures in the bill can be rearranged but there is no way to sufficiently address all of the funding gaps without a budget agreement. 
  • The committee cannot write a credible THUD bill until Congress can pass a budget agreement.
Ranking Member Price (D-N.C.) also offered an amendment to increase funding for 12 capital programs in the FY 2016 THUD bill at the president’s requested levels, including the public housing capital and HOME programs. Those changes would increase HUD’s budget above the mandated caps, and the amendment did not pass. This amendment did prompt an interesting discussion between Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) about sequestration and who is responsible for finding a solution: Congress or the President.

Committee members proposed other housing amendments which show the concern of many members about the bill’s funding levels for HUD programs. None of these amendments passed:
  • Ranking Member Lowey (D-N.Y.) proposed an amendment to increase funding for the lead hazard control and healthy homes programs.
  • Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) proposed an amendment to provide additional funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, specifically to serve targeted populations. 
  • Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) proposed an amendment to stop the diversion of funds from the National Housing Trust Fund and to increase funding for the HOME program to the president’s requested level.
Now the House FY 2016 THUD bill moves to the floor for a vote. The bill, as passed out of committee, still contains many harmful provisions and damaging cuts, but without a budget agreement that provides sequestration relief, any THUD budget will be painful.

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