On Sept. 17, the Senate voted 93-7 to pass a massive $854 billion spending bill (HR 6157), which includes FY19 budget bills for the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Education, but new funding bills for agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture may very well be stuck at current levels through Dec. 7 via a stopgap funding measure.
House and Senate appropriators are still working through last-minute negotiations towards a spending package that would authorize an FY19 budget for four appropriations bills, including Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) and Agriculture bills. Unfortunately, that effort appears mired in controversial proposed policy riders the cast doubt on whether or not there can be agreement ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. If they cannot arrive at an agreement before this deadline, legislators would have to pass a stopgap funding measure and continue working towards approval of FY19 budgets before Dec. 7.
In the meantime, Prosperity Indiana continues to push for the highest possible allocation for the housing titles of these budget bills as well as the inclusion of the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration program.
House and Senate FY19 HUD bills included increased compared to FY18 which is promising news as FY18 represented a nearly 10 percent increase compared to FY17 following nearly a decade of deep cuts in the aftermath of the recession and Budget Control Act. For more detailed coverage on those bills, please visit our earlier blog and links here: https://www.prosperityindiana.org/Policy-News/6574990
In Congress, two new legislative initiatives have been introduced that aim to alleviate cost burdens for low-income renters. These bills come on the heels of new data showing that In only 22 counties out of more than 3,000 nationwide can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom rental home at fair market rent. These 22 counties are all located in states with hourly minimum wages higher than $7.25. Further, since 1960, median earnings increased 5% while rents rose 61% and despite increasing need, only one out of every four very low-income renter households, those at or below 50% AMI, receives housing assistance.
In Indiana, a minimum wage worker must have 2.1 full-time jobs or work 86 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. According to calculations based on census data, there is a deficit of 134,998 units affordable and available for extremely low-income Hoosiers earning 30 percent of area median income or below. With that in mind, we take great interest in new initiatives to help address this housing crisis.
On July 19, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Rent Relief Act, to provide relief to cost-burdened renters by proposing a refundable tax credit to individuals who pay more than 30 percent of their gross income toward rent and utilities. Taxpayers earning less than $100,000 annually, or $125,000 in high-rent areas, would receive a credit that would cover the difference in rental payments between 30 percent of the taxpayer’s income and rent, capped at 150 percent of fair-market rent. Renters in subsidized housing would be able to claim one month’s rent as a refundable credit.
Soon after, on August 1, Senator Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity Act (HOME) Act that would also provide a refundable tax credit to households who spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The credit would apply to renters earning 80 percent of area median income and would be capped at 100 percent of fair market rent. The HOME Act would also allow renters to defer 20 percent of their tax credit to a rainy day savings program to help cover emergency expenses. Importantly, Sen. Booker’s bill also address the need for the expansion of affordable housing units by requires states and local communities to develop new inclusive zoning policies, programs, or regulatory initiatives to create more affordable housing supply.
Critical Funding Update:On August 2, the Senate approved its Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill. As outlined below, the bill includes $12 billion above the Administration’s request and $1 billion above the House version. This post details funding levels below, but here is a summary of the amendments added during debate.
On Thursday, June 7, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance its FY19 THUD bill. The bill is stronger for housing programs than the House bill, providing $1.8 billion in additional funding – that works out to $12 billion above the president’s FY19 request and more than $1 billion above the House proposal.
The Senate bill:
Programs that would maintain the Omnibus funding levels:
Programs receiving increases include:
The only significant cut is to the Choice Neighborhoods program, which was cut b $50 million.
On Thursday, July 19, the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee to become the new director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB), Kathy Kraninger. The CFPB is responsible for overseeing consumer protections in the financial sector and has jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, mortgage servicers, foreclosure relief companies, and debt collectors operating in the U.S. If confirmed by the Senate, Kraninger would hold significant sway over the way those companies manage mortgages, credit cards, payday loans and other financial products they offer to customers. Click here to read our coverage of the hearing.
At issue in this hearing is the fundamental disagreement the Administration has with the agency’s underlying constitutionality. The current acting director, Mick Mulvaney, has decried what he considers to be a lack of accountability in the structure of the agency. Kraninger, hand-picked by Mulvaney to take over largely shares his views and promised in the confirmation hearing to continue the more pro-business shift at the agency that started under Mulvaney’s time as Acting Director.
If confirmed, Kraninger would serve a five-year term. In laying out her priorities, Kraninger stated she would use cost-benefit analysis to measure the price tag of regulations to industries and continue to go after bad industry behavior.
When pressed on the agency’s payday loan rule and her thoughts on whether or not the agency should repeal it, Kraninger only stated, “While I will not prejudge and cannot predict every decision that will come before me as director, if confirmed, I can assure you that I will focus solely on serving the American people.”
Senate Republicans who have expressed similar concerns to Mick Mulvaney about the agency and expressed support the nominee during the hearing proceedings. Questions from the panel’s Republican members largely focused on increasing transparency and accountability within the CFPB.
Senate Democrats who back the consumer protection actions taken under the previous director, Richard Cordray, took issue with Kraninger’s lack of experience with the agency, consumer protection issues or the financial services sector. Previously, she served at the White House Office of Management and Budget and helped craft President Trump’s 2019 budget plan, which called for cutting the CFPB’s budget and restricting its enforcement oversight.
Senator Donnelly (D-Ind.) sits on the panel and questioned Kraninger about student loan debt and the agency's recent decision to eliminate student loan office focused on loan abuses, which has returned $750 million in relief since its inception, and refocusing those responsibilities on "financial education." Donnelly stated that Hoosier students graduate with an average of $29,000 in debt and underlined the importance of that office. When asked her position on this action, Kraninger pointed to the fact the that CFPB still had an ombudsman for private student loans and she would be talking to that staff on student loan issues.
Donnelly also asked if she agreed with Mick Mulvaney's previous comments in referring to the CFPB as a "joke" and she said she would not have used those words and would support Bureau's mission, "as passed by Congress."
The full Senate is expected to vote soon on this nomination and Kraninger is expected to be confirmed as Republicans hold the majority of seats.
These programs help ensure Hoosiers have access to safe, affordable housing and spur community development investments. While it passed the House on June 6, by a close vote of 210 - 206, the Senate voted down the measure by a vote of 48-50 on Wednesday. Senator Young (R-IN) voted to approve the measure and Senator Donnelly (D-IN) opposed it. To see how your Representative voted, click here.
Below is our action alert text addressing the impact this bill would have had on Prosperity Indiana' members and the Hoosiers served by them:
As a Prosperity Indiana member dedicated to expanding affordable housing access and strengthening our communities, I urge you to oppose harmful rescissions contained in H.R. 3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act. Contrary to the bill's title, the legislation would rescind significant resources needed to improve living conditions for low-income Hoosiers and increase investment in distressed communities.
Specifically, H.R. 3 would rescind $39 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund Program, $40 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rental Assistance Program, as well as $164 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Community Development Financial Institution Fund (CDFI) programs.
The Public Housing Capital Fund enables Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to maintain safe, sanitary living conditions for residents. These resources are used for roof repairs, maintaining heating and air conditioning systems, and removing hazards such as lead paint. Unfortunately, appropriations have not kept pace with the urgent need. A 2010 HUD study estimated the backlog on deferred maintenance on public housing was $26 billion, and was expected to grow by $3.4 billion per year. That would put the current backlog at more than $50 billion. Unobligated resources in this fund do not reflect a surplus. To the contrary, these funds are unobligated because PHAs often do not receive enough in one year's allocation to make larger repairs and have to save their annual funding for several years before signing contracts which lengthens the process. Cutting these resources only serves to further jeopardize the health and safety of public housing residents across our state.
USDA's Rental Assistance Program is critical to community stability, providing funding to help low-income households in rural areas access housing stability through public-private partnerships with landlords. Without these funds, many families would be homeless. Short-term funding via continuing resolutions made it difficult to renew contracts and the funds targeted in this bill were intended to ensure there are no shortfalls in fulfilling those existing obligations that would be harmful to housing providers and low-income Hoosiers alike.
Proposed rescissions also include $151 million from the Capital Magnet Fund, resources that were only made available on May 1 of this year, and $22 million from the Bank Enterprise Award Program. These programs attract private capital to support organizations that increase the availability and affordability of housing and improve access to financial services in divested communities.
When you consider that thirty-one percent of households in Indiana are renters and nearly half are cost-burdened already, it is clear we simply cannot afford to cut programs that provide critical housing assistance and incentivize investments in low-income communities. I urge you to oppose this measure.