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Housing and Homelessness Funding Detail (S 1789)

July 18, 2007

The $50.7 billion Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill (S 1789) includes $38.75 billion for programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)--$2.12 billion more than the FY 2007 level and $3.15 billion more than the President’s request.

HUD Section 811 Funding

Senate bill 1789 (and companion House bill) allocates $237 million for the HUD Section 811 program, rejecting a proposed $112 million cut to the program. 

Since the President's budget came out in February, NAMI (along with colleague national disability groups) fought to restore funding for Section 811.  NAMI is extremely grateful for the leadership of Representative John Olver (D-MA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees that drafted the Transportation-HUD bills. 

Specifically, the House and Senate bills allocate funding within Section 811 as follows:

  • $145.875 million for new capital advance/project-based grants
  • $74.7 million to renew expiring tenant-based rent subsidies and contract amendments (additional funds to lease up previously allocated tenant-based contracts)
  • $15 million for renewal of existing project-based subsidies (known as PRACs)

Capital advance and project-based grants to local non-profit disability organizations expand the inventory of accessible supportive housing serving individuals with severe disabilities -- including severe mental illness.  This is in contrast to tenant-based rent subsidies that cannot be used to develop new supportive housing units. 

The bill includes no funding for new Section 811 tenant-based rental assistance.  NAMI and a coalition of other national disabilities organizations had urged Congress not to fund any new Section 811 tenant-based assistance (also known as the “mainstream” voucher program for people with disabilities) out of concern that HUD has failed to ensure that housing agencies are actually targeting rental assistance to individuals with severe disabilities. 

Section 8 Rental Voucher Funding 

S 1789 includes a $500 million increase above current levels for Section 8 rental vouchers, which is about $350 million above the President’s request.  The House bill is about $90 million below the level in the Senate bill.  

Importantly, the House bill allocates $20 million in funding for new tenant-based vouchers, known as “incrementals,” that are targeted to non-elderly people with disabilities.  This is a tremendous victory for NAMI and its allies in the disability community and marks an important step in helping to relieve the extremely long waiting lists for people living on SSI to access rental assistance through the Section 8 program.  NAMI is extremely grateful for the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman John Olver (D-MA) in allocating funding for these new “incremental” disability vouchers.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Funding

S 1789 fully funds the Bush Administration’s request to increase the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act by $146 million for FY 2008, boosting funding to $1.586 million.  This is $25 million above the amount allocated in the House bill.  This includes funding for permanent housing programs such as Shelter Plus Care and SHP, as well as renewal of expiring rent subsidies.  In addition, the Senate bill requires HUD to continue directing a minimum of 30% of McKinney-Vento funds for permanent housing, with a 25% local match required for services. 

Homeless Veterans

S 1789 includes $75 million in funding for new rental vouchers for homeless veterans, including those returning from Iraq.  This is assistance would be made available through a joint HUD-VA program that combines housing assistance from HUD with medical and psychiatric care and other supportive services from the VA.  The Senate bill estimates that this $75 million total could support as many 10,000 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans.  The House bill includes $10 million in HUD funding for this initiative.

Section 8 Reform Bill (HR 1851)
HR 1851, the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) passed the House on July12th. 
HR 1851 is designed to fix the voucher funding formula problems that have plagued the program since 2004, authorize 20,000 new vouchers each year for the next five years, and simplify the calculation of rents while maintaining the “Brooke Amendment” (a provision in current law that caps resident rents at 30% of adjusted income), in addition to other improvements.

The 333-83 vote showed a very strong commitment to the Section 8 voucher program, especially given the White House’s Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on July 11th.  The SAP all but threatened a veto of HR 1851 and described the Administration’s “opposition to the bill in its current form.”

During debate, the House defeated a number of amendments that would have undermined protections in the Section 8 program for people with disabilities and others with extremely low incomes.  Among defeated amendments were an amendment offered by Representatives Gary Miller (R-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) that would have required seven-year time limits on voucher holders and project-based Section 8 residents, a Chabot amendment that would have eliminated funding for the 20,000 new vouchers each year and an amendment by Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) that would have imposed work requirements on voucher holders and project-based Section 8 residents.

However, the legislation does include an amendment that would require each adult member of a voucher household to show a REAL-ID compliant driver’s license or identification card, a Social Security card accompanied by state-issued photo identification or a U.S. passport.

If any adult family member could not produce such identification, the entire family would lose its assistance. Undocumented residents are already ineligible for vouchers and all voucher holders are already required to be citizens or prove their lawful immigration status. This amendment may prove extremely harmful to many eligible U.S. citizens, including individuals with serious mental illness, who do not have one of these types of identification.

Additional information on HR 1851 is available here.