Membership Messages

Fahe Advocacy Update: Senate moves funding work forward, but a stop-gap measure will be needed; Survey shows widespread agreement on housing affordability; $50 billion needed nationally for home repairs of low-income families.

The Latest

  • Senate advances spending bills, will not pass in time for end of fiscal year
  • House passes new continuing resolution as stop-gap measure until Nov. 21st 

Longer Term

  • Large survey of Americans shows widespread agreement on housing affordability issues, smaller margins for solutions
  • Report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve outlines national costs for needed home repairs; greater proportion in lower income homes

The Latest

The Senate Appropriation Committee has marked up relevant bills such as Senate Ag and THUD and they go to the full Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. The Senate waited for the budget deal, whereas the earlier House bills were based on projections. As such, the new Senate numbers were always going to come in lower than the House numbers, and that has happened. For instance, whereas the House called for an increased investment into the HOME program of $1.75 billion (an increase of $500 million from FY19), the Senate’s number is a flat $1.25 billion. This pattern is the same throughout the Senate’s version of the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development bill, and the Agriculture, and Rural Development bill. Negotiations between the two bodies will produce new numbers in the coming weeks. Discretionary domestic spending was increased across the board in the budget deal, so these negotiations will decide where that additional funding will be channeled. We will keep you updated as we learn more from the negotiators.

The work of the Senate described above will not happen quickly enough to ensure final spending levels for most of the federal government before the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30th. To prevent another government shutdown, the House and Senate have begun negotiations over a continuing resolution that will act as a stop-gap spending bill until November 21st. This bill would fund the government at a flat rate from FY 2019 levels. The House passed the bill late last week (301-123), and barring any potential political battles, the Senate will vote on it this week. Some version of this bill must be signed into law by the President before the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

Longer Term

The National Association of Homebuilders recently conducted a survey of 19,801 Americans which gauged attitudes and opinions about housing affordability. 80 percent of respondents believed that the lack of affordable housing in the US is a problem, and 76 percent said that it is a problem locally in their own county. Despite this widespread agreement on the issue, a smaller majority of 64 percent of respondents said they would support a proposal to expand federal programs to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. While this was a smaller majority, it was still the most-supported proposal. Clearly, advocates still have much ground to cover to convince the public that we have workable solutions to the issue, and that they should support local, state, and national candidates for office that plan to invest at scale.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve and PolicyMap have released a report that outlines a national cost for needed home repairs. The authors estimate that homes occupied by people earning up to 200% of the federal poverty line have needed repairs which total a cost of $50 billion. The less a household makes, the costlier the average repair bill; those households earning less than the federal poverty level had an average cost of $3,482. The most expensive per-repair categories of structures were manufactured homes and single family homes, and costs in nonmetropolitan areas outpaced those in metropolitan areas. This type of report indicates the true scale of the issue nationally, and supplies evidence of need for increased investment in home repair programs for low-income families. Advocates armed with this data, and with stories of their successful work in home repair programs, may have more success persuading decision makers of the need for more investment.

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