The Senate Banking Committee approved a $17.6 billion housing and community development authorization bill yesterday that would put the government back into the production of housing for the non-elderly poor.
The measure would also set up a Public Housing Accreditation Commission within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide peer review and pressure on housing authorities to operate more efficiently.
Conspicuously absent from the bill, however, are some of the administration's most controversial housing assistance initiatives, including its proposals to overhaul the way public housing authorities are subsidized and to change the way it calculates the subsidy--or fair market rent--it will pay for poor people who rent in the private market.
The committee completed its mark-up in an unusually brief 2 1/2-hour session, reflecting what committee sources said was an immense amount of behind-the-scenes negotiation to iron out differences among members in advance. As a result, these sources said, the bill enjoys bipartisan support.
Cushing N. Dolbeare, of the Low Income Housing Coalition, which lobbied against many of the administration's proposals, called the bill "a constructive piece of legislation."
Of the $17.6 billion in budget authority in the bill, the largest share, $7.6 billion, would go to various housing assistance programs, such as the Section 8 subsidies for existing housing. Other major authorizations:
* $4 billion for community development, including three-year reauthorizations of the urban Development Action Grant and Community Development Block Grant programs.
* $3.6 billion for rural housing.
* $1.5 billion for operating subsidies for public housing authorities.
* $850 million for rental rehabilitation and production grants. Included in this provision is $300 million to build new low-income housing. Though the amount is not large compared to programs of the past, it would put the government back in the production field for the first time since the expiration of funding for the Section 8 production program last year.
* $750 million to make emergency loans to homeowners faced with loss of their property through foreclosure.
Although the bill was sent to the floor, the committee agreed to hold additional hearings on this last provision and on secondary mortgage market issues. After those hearings, scheduled for the end of the month, the panel can send to the floor a "committee amendment" dealing with these questions, which would be considered at the same time as the bill.