National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Housing: NAMI's Advocacy Goals and Strategies

  • NAMI supports efforts to increase funding for the HUD Section 811 program (above its current $217-million level) and to maintain the integrity of the capital-advance and project-based rental-assistance portion of the program (maintaining the existing 75 percent threshold).

    Specifically, NAMI supports increasing Section 811 to $346 million, restoring the program to its level in the final year of the last Bush Administration. For the 25 percent of the Section 811 program that HUD directs to tenant-based rental assistance, NAMI supports congressional efforts to ensure that HUD allows only non-profit disability organizations to be eligible to compete to administer local tenant-based subsidies.
  • NAMI supports continued funding for a separate allocation of tenant-based rental assistance for non-elderly people with disabilities adversely affected by the designation of public and assisted housing as "elderly only." (Congress has allocated over $210 million for this purpose since 1996).

  • NAMI supports increased funding for federal homeless-assistance programs and continued implementation of a minimum threshold for permanent housing programs for homeless adults with severe mental illness (e.g., Shelter Plus Care, Emergency Shelter Grants, Moderate Rehab SRO). NAMI supports efforts in Congress to continue renewal of all expiring Shelter Plus Care rent subsidies through the new renewal account enacted by Congress in 2000.

  • NAMI supports congressional action to authorize a new federal housing production program to serve households at 30 percent of median income and below, with specific targeting of individuals for whom tenant-based rental vouchers have proven ineffective for securing stable housing.

  • NAMI opposes efforts to erode standards in the Fair Housing Act that protect group homes and other shared-living arrangements in the community from discriminatory zoning and land use policies.
  • NAMI and a coalition of national disability advocacy organizations are seeking support in Congress for increased funding for programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). First and foremost, NAMI is supporting a $310 million appropriation for HUD Section 811 (supportive housing for people with disabilities) program for FY 2004. This is an increase of $50 million over the FY 2003 appropriation of $259 million.

    This $50 million increase is needed in order to keep pace with the growing burden associated with one-year renewals of project-based and tenant-based rent subsidies under the program -- $8 million for project-based renewals (also known as PRACs) and $42 million for tenant-based renewals. Without an increase to cover renewal of PRACs and 811 tenant-based "mainstream" subsidies, funding for new units developed under the program will be cut.

    There is a precedent in the HUD budget in recent years for adding funds to the HUD budget to cover growing rent subsidy renewal costs. Since FY 2000, Congress has created and funded a separate account at HUD for renewal of expiring rent subsidies under the Shelter Plus Care program (part of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act). This Shelter Plus Care renewal account has been funded over the past three years WITHOUT a reduction in the base of the McKinney-Vento program. Disability advocates are seeking the same treatment for Section 811 renewals in FY 2004.

Background on Section 811 and HUD’s FY 2004 Budget

For the Section 811 program the Administration is requesting $251 million -- $8 million less than Congress appropriated for FY 2003. The Bush Administration’s budget also proposes to maintain the current structure of the Section 811 program, with 75% of funds going toward capital advances and project-based assistance to non-profit groups to build and manage housing for people with disabilities (including non-elderly adults with severe mental illnesses). The other 25% of the program would continue going toward tenant-based rental assistance, also known as the Section 811 "mainstream" program.

In FY 2004, for both the capital advance/project-based side of the Section 811 program and for the tenant-based mainstream side, Congress and HUD face a continued challenge to fund renewal of expiring rent subsidies. In both cases, these ongoing obligations to renew funding associated with units already in existence are expected to drain limited resources.

For the capital advance/project-based side, HUD estimates that $8 million will be needed to renew expiring project-based rent subsidies (also known as PRACs) -- $2 million more than was needed in FY 2003. On the tenant-based "mainstream" side, HUD projects that $42 million will be needed in FY 2004 to renew expiring tenant-based rent subsidies that were originally funded in prior years ($10 million more than was needed in FY 2003).

The result is that the Administration’s proposed $8 million cut for Section 811 is, in reality, at least a $20 million cut when measured in terms of the capacity of 811 to produce new units (both project-based and tenant-based), i.e. the $8 million proposed reduction, added on to the $12 million renewal burden for existing units.

  • Linking Section 811 to Chronic Homelessness

In addition, the President’s FY 2004 budget contains an unspecified proposal to link the 811 program to the Administration’s ongoing initiative to end chronic homelessness over the next decade. This proposal (known as the "Samaritan Initiative") is included in the HUD budget as $50 million request for new permanent supportive housing and grants for outreach to people experiencing chronic homelessness (including homeless people with mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse). HHS and the VA are proposing to contribute $10 million each in FY 2004 for services to accompany the program. The Samaritan Initiative is also part of the Administration’s proposed $1.528 billion request for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This includes full funding for the cost of renewing all expiring rent subsidies associated with the Shelter Plus Care program – estimated by HUD to cost $194 million in FY 2004.

  • Funding for Section 8 Vouchers

The President’s budget proposes to add $36 million in FY 2004 for Section 8 vouchers for non-elderly people with disabilities adversely affected by designation of public and assisted housing as "elderly only." Congress has funded this allocation of tenant-based vouchers since 1996 in response to the erosion of affordable housing resources for non-elderly people with disabilities that has occurred as a result of the growth of "elderly only" housing. This effort has been championed by key leaders in Congress including Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO).

  • NAMI Opposes Bush Administration’s Section 8 Block Grant Proposal

The Bush Administration is pushing a proposal in Congress (HR 1841) to convert the Section 8 rental voucher program to a block grant to the states – known as HANF (Housing Assistance to Needy Families). NAMI has joined a broad-based coalition of disability organizations, non-profit providers, and housing agencies to oppose this proposal. First, a block grant would "cap," or even reduce Section 8 voucher appropriations, and could lead to reduce the number of households assisted and/or the amount of assistance provided to participating households.

Further, under a block grant, Congress would no longer have the direct responsibility for continuing assistance to households participating in the program. In addition, because of the continued implementation of "elderly only" designation policies by Housing Authorities and HUD-assisted housing owners, HUD’s administration of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program has been extremely important to mitigate the negative affects of designation for non-elderly people with disabilities.

With a flexible block grant, block-grant administrators could re-direct Section 8 voucher funding away from people with disabilities who are most in need of housing assistance in order to serve other more politically popular groups, including higher income households who are less expensive to serve.

  • HUD recently announced the availability of funding to expand affordable housing opportunities for people with mental illnesses and other disabilities (SuperNOFA), including funding for several federal housing programs with specific information regarding application processes; listing of eligible applicants and activities; and funding levels for various programs.

    The HUD SuperNOFA announcement represents a critical step in the process of how local governments, housing authorities and non-profits access federal housing funds.

    NAMI state and local affiliates and advocates have an important role to play in pushing local officials and housing organizations to apply for programs that target housing resources to non-elderly adults with severe mental illnesses. Over the coming weeks and months, state and local housing officials, housing authority directors and non-profit groups will be deciding whether or not apply for HUD funding through programs such as Section 8, Section 811 and McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance. In many states and communities, it will take the assertive advocacy of NAMI leaders to push these officials to make a priority of seeking HUD funds for individuals with severe mental illness.

NAMI affiliate leaders and advocates are urged to take the materials included below regarding the FY 2003 HUD SuperNOFA to state and local housing officials, housing authority directors and non-profit groups and urge them to apply funding for HUD resources that target people with severe mental illness.

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