Voucher Funding Disappointing

Hill UpdateCongressional leaders released the text of the omnibus spending bill on December 16, 2015.

The omnibus bill funds all 12 appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, for FY16.

Congress is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), which will keep the government funded until midnight December 16. Sometime on December 16 Congress will pass another CR to avoid shutdown until December 22. It is possible that both the House and Senate could take up the omnibus and be done by December 18.

The text of a tax extender package was also released just after midnight.

The omnibus spending bill is not perfect, or even acceptable, but it could have been a lot worse if the sequester spending caps were nor raised. While Congress did invest some of these increased resources into key programs, the lack of increased investment in the Housing Choice Voucher program will hurt efforts to end homelessness in New Jersey and across the country.

Highlights of the omnibus spending bill related to homeless and housing programs:

  • Vouchers – Appears short on renewals by about $369 million; only new vouchers funded are VASH vouchers at $60 million.
  • Homeless Assistance Grants – Increase over FY15’s $2.135B to $2.250B. This includes $38 million for programs for homeless youth
  • National Housing Trust Fund – No NHTF funds were raided
  • HOME – Small increase of $50 million above FY15 level to $950M for FY16

Specific details include:

  • The omnibus spending bill will not raid any funds from the National Housing Trust Fund, which is set to deliver its first resources to states in 2016 for the production, preservation, and operation of predominantly affordable rental housing for extremely low income households. The House spending bill would have raided 100% of the NHTF’s funds in 2016 and used them to fund the HOME program. The Senate Committee bill did not raid the NHTF program.
  • The omnibus bill would provide a $50 million increase compared to FY15 for the HOME program, bringing HOME funding to $950 million, a major victory for HOME program advocates. The House bill would have cut HOME to $767 million in FY16; the Senate bill would have effectively eliminated funding for the HOME program by cutting it to $66 million in FY16.
  • The omnibus bill would fund the overall Housing Choice Voucher program at $19.629 billion, providing $17.681 for voucher renewals and $65 million for new vouchers (all of the new vouchers are Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers). It appears that the voucher renewal amount is about $369 million lower than what’s required for 2016 but further analysis is necessary.
  • The omnibus bill would fund HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grant programs at $2.25 billion. The President’s budget request would have increased funding to $2.48 billion in FY16 to support efforts to end veteran homelessness in 2015, end chronic homelessness in 2017, and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in 2020.

Click here for an updated FY16 HUD and USDA Budget Chart from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Click here to view the entire tax extender package.

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