A House Banking subcommittee this week approved and sent to the full committee a $23.6 billion housing authorization bill that would provide money for more than 135,000 additional units of subsidized housing, reject the administration's proposed voucher program, and scale back the share of their income that poor tenants would have to pay in assisted housing.
The bill also would reauthorize the Community Development Block Grant and Urban Development Action Grant programs for three more years, and would create a program of neighborhood development grants to help generate jobs and expand businesses in distressed neighborhoods.
Major funding authorizations in the measure are:
* $4.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants.
* $440 million for UDAG.
* $13.094 billion for low-income assisted housing.
* $1.55 billion for public housing operating subsidies.
* $3.955 billion for rural housing.
The total is substantially higher than the $17.6 billion that the Senate Banking Committee has approved, with the bulk of the disparity coming in the totals for low-income assisted housing. The Senate bill would authorize only $7.6 billion for those programs.
If the two bills emerge from their respective chambers in something like their present form, it will make for "a very difficult conference," a House housing subcommittee staff member observed.
He noted, however, that there seems to be strong interest in both houses and in both parties in obtaining a housing bill this year--something Congress was unable to do last year--and he said he believes both bodies will be willing to compromise.
He said he thinks the Senate already has "moved past where they were last year," and a member of the Senate Banking Committee staff said the same thing of the House. In fact, "I think they've moved farther than we have," the Senate panel staffer said.
The House bill would take a number of steps to ease the rent burden on low-income people who get government assistance. It would roll back to 25 percent from the 30 percent in current law the share of income that a tenant would have to put toward rent.
It also would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to calculate fair market rents--which govern how much subsidy HUD will pay for a given housing unit--based on rents paid by people who have recently moved into their dwellings. HUD is proposing to base the FMR on all rents in a market area. The effect of the bill's provision would be to increase HUD's subsidy payments because recent movers tend to pay higher rents than people who have lived in a house or apartment for a long time.
Finally, the bill would tighten up both application and targeting requirements for Community Development Block Grants. It would direct that at least 51 percent of the grant money go to benefit low- and moderate-income people.
And it would change the application process so that communities would have to specify their goals and approaches in using the grant, making it possible for both the government and people in the local community to keep track of what the money is being used for.