House OKs More Than $55B in Affordable Housing Aid

The House voted June 25 to approve more than $55 billion in funds for affordable-housing and community- development programs for the 2020 fiscal year, rejecting drastic cuts proposed by the Trump administration. The 227-194 vote was largely on party lines, but one Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, helped draft the bills.

The five-bill package passed would increase federal housing aid by $5.9 billion over what was spent in fiscal 2019, instead of the $7.5 billion cut requested by Donald Trump and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. It includes $23.8 billion for tenant-based rental assistance programs such as Section 8, a $1.2 billion increase instead of a $350 million cut, and $12.6 billion for project-based rental assistance, a $850 million increase.

The House rejected Trump proposals to slash aid for public housing by more than 60 percent, including the complete elimination of almost $2.8 billion in capital funding. It instead voted to raise capital aid by $80 million, and to increase operating assistance by $100 million, to $4.75 billion. The administration had proposed a $1.8 billion cut.

The bill does not include the $100 million the administration requested for Rental Assistance Demonstration, a pilot program to turn public-housing developments over to private management, with rents subsidized by vouchers instead of direct aid. It would also spend $2.8 billion on homeless-assistance grants, a $164-million increase instead of a $37-million cut.

Trump and Carson had also proposed eliminating the $3.4 billion Community Development Program and cutting housing aid for the elderly, disabled, and people with AIDS by 5, 15, and 16 percent respectively. The bill would increase funds for all four programs.

Before the appropriations can be enacted, however, Congress and the White House must waive the caps on defense and domestic spending required under the 2011 budget law. “Unless the caps are lifted,” the National Low Income Housing Coalition warned, “affordable-housing programs may face devastating, across-the-board cuts of almost 10 percent.”

The House bill would also pre-empt Trump-Carson proposals to deny immigrants and transgender people access to federally aided housing. One provision would bar HUD from evicting the 25,000 families that have undocumented members living with them, a policy which would throw out 55,000 children who are U.S. citizens or have legal-immigrant status. Another would prevent the department from changing its rules to let homeless shelters discriminate against transgender people.