Senate Passes Bill to Provide Additional Investments in Affordable Housing

But Senate Bill Does Not Stop Proposed Rule Change Potentially Harming Immigrant Families Seeking Housing Assistance

The U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 84-9 a four-bill spending package for fiscal year (FY) 2020. The bill includes additional funding for affordable housing and community development at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as several key amendments.

The Senate spending bill provides modest funding increases for affordable housing programs. The bill clearly rejectis President Trump’s call for deep cuts to and even the elimination of affordable housing investments. This is good news for those working to end homelessness in New Jersey as cuts to and the elimination of affordable housing investments would more than likely worsen New Jersey’s affordable housing crisis and increase homelessness.

Overall, the bill provides HUD programs with more than $11.9 billion above the president’s FY20 request and $2.3 billion above FY19 enacted levels. This amount is likely sufficient to renew all existing rental assistance contracts and to provide level funding or modest increases to most other programs. Hopefully, New Jersey’s local communities will see these modest increases locally and this funding will bolster efforts in New Jersey to end homelessness.

The bill increases funding for homeless assistance programs to $2.8 billion from $2.64 billion in FY19. The president would have funded the programs at $2.6 billion. Of these funds, $80 million will target addressing youth homelessness in urban and rural areas.

For more information, see the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) analysis of the Senate bill and updated budget chart.

The Senate bill does not include important provisions approved by the House that would stop harmful proposals by the Trump administration. The House bill contains language that would prevent HUD from implementing its harmful “mixed-status” immigrant-family rule. This rule change has the potential to harm immigrants seeking homelessness assistance based on factors such as income and public benefits usage.

New Jersey is party to a multi-state lawsuit against the proposed “Public Charge” rule that is being led by the State of Washington. The lawsuit seeks a stay or preliminary injunction against the proposed “Public Charge” rule.

If the Public Charge rule stands, it has potentially catastrophic effects on the usage of public benefits in New Jersey. For example, 20,000 eligible women and children in New Jersey currently receiving NJ FamilyCare health benefits through the Medicaid and CHIP programs could be impacted by the rule. And 50,000 New Jerseyans receiving food assistance through the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamp, could also be impacted by the rule.

Language would also stop HUD from rolling back protections for LGBTQ people, including the agency’s Equal Access rule ensuring transgender people have access to emergency shelters and other facilities that match their gender identity. Without equal access to emergency shelter, LGBTQ people in New Jersey may face an even more increased risk of homelessness.

Passage of the Senate spending bill is an important step, but the House and Senate still need to reach an agreement on a final FY20 spending bill to ensure continued funding for federal programs and avoid a government shutdown. The government is currently operating under a stop-gap continuing resolution through November 21.

The theme of the July 24, 2019 Congressional Reception was Opportunity Starts at Home: Building a Necessary and Secure Foundation for Healthy Communities.

The Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, spearheaded by the NLIHC, is designed to address the needs of renters and low-income households in our communities.

This year’s Federal Policy Priorities were around the following key areas: Housing and Services, Medicaid, Affordable Homes, Fair Housing, and Housing Development.

One of the specific requests related to housing and services was that our elected officials support an increase of $217 million to $2.6 billion in funding for the McKinney- Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. The $2.8 billion funding level passed by the Senate meets that request.

We also requested that our elected officials protect and expand the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to help connect families to areas of opportunity with access to good schools, well- paying jobs, healthcare and transit.  The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program was protected and the voucher program will hopefully see a modest funding increase.