March ACTION Update: Lawmakers Turn Attention to FY 2020 Appropriations and Other Legislative Priorities

Lawmakers Divert Second Government Shutdown, Turn Attention to FY 2020 Appropriations and Other Legislative Priorities

Earlier this month Congress passed and the president signed full-year spending bills to fund the agencies that had been operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The bill provides enough money to fully fund renewals for tenant-based and project-based vouchers, and sets aside $25 million for a family mobility demonstration program that aims to help families move to and remain in lower-poverty neighborhoods. It also provides $1.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, a HUD block grant program that is often used as a gap filler in Housing Credit developments. This represents an 8 percent reduction in HOME since FY 2018, but is still HOME’s second highest allocation since FY 2011. 

Appropriators will now turn their attention to the FY 2020 appropriations process, which will require lawmakers to agree to raise the spending caps enacted in the Budget Control Act of 2011 in order to avoid dramatic cuts across federal programs in FY 2020.

While there was talk of attaching a tax extenders package to the FY 2019 appropriations bill, it ultimately advanced without any tax provisions. There may be another effort to extend expired tax provisions later this year, which could offer an opportunity to advance other tax priorities, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit).

Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act Update

The government shutdown delayed congressional action on many legislative priorities, but offices are picking up the pace on finalizing legislation now that FY 2019 funding negotiations have ended. ACTION is working closely with congressional champions in the House and Senate to finalize bill text, secure Republican lead sponsors, and reintroduce the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act to strengthen and expand the Housing Credit. Stay tuned to our blog for updates on the Housing Credit and opportunities to advocate in support of the program.

Congressional Hearings Highlight Importance of Affordable Housing

On February 13 the House Financial Services Committee convened a hearing entitled “Homelessness in America: Examining the Crisis and Solutions to End Homelessness.” The full committee hearing focused on both the causes of and solutions to homelessness, and many panel members testified on the importance of addressing housing affordability issues as a critical homelessness-prevention tool. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) stated during the hearing that the Housing Credit, which enjoys bipartisan support, is the primary tool for promoting affordable housing. The House Ways and Means Committee also held a hearing on February 13 – “How Middle Class Families are Faring in Today’s Economy” – in which Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), a strong supporter of the Housing Credit, spoke about the importance of affordable rental housing.

Senate Banking Committee to Vote on Mark Calabria as FHFA Director

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs will vote on the nomination of Mark Calabria to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) this Thursday, February 28. Earlier this month Dr. Calabria testified before the Senate Banking Committee on his nomination to lead FHFA, where he faced questions regarding previous statements supporting the elimination of affordable housing goals for the GSEs, as well as his intentions regarding the future of the Capital Magnet and Housing Trust Funds. Regarding his authority to suspend payments to these programs, Calabria stated that the standard to suspend payments was “mechanical,” rather than discretionary, and added that under the current economic conditions the payments were not at risk of being suspended. When asked whether he would commit to preserving strong affordable housing goals, he stated that he would, “within the confines of the statute.”

FHA to Expand Pilot Program Focused on Accelerating Financing of Housing Credit Projects

HUD has announced the expansion of a pilot program that streamlines Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance applications for affordable housing developments that have equity from Housing Credits. FHA is expanding this pilot to include new construction and substantial rehabilitation under its Section 221(d)(4) and Section 220 Programs. The program is intended to ensure faster and more efficient processing for low-risk, Housing Credit transactions by eliminating redundant reviews.