Key Housing, Community Development Provisions in FY 2015 ‘CR-Omnibus’ Appropriations Bill

Published by Michael Novogradac on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 12:00am

The House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership released the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Continuing Resolution (CR) – Omnibus Appropriations bill (“CR-Omnibus”) on Dec. 9. The bill includes $1.013 trillion in discretionary spending for FY 2015, coming under the budget caps as passed by the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act of 2103.

For the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the bill provides $45.4 billion in gross FY 2015 funding, $104 million less the fiscal-year 2014 enacted level, and $1.3 billion below the FY 2015 request. Most program levels were between the House and Senate FY 2015 Transportation-HUD (THUD) bills and close to FY 2014 funding, but a slight decrease from the FY 2015 request. A summary of how several key housing and community development programs fare in the FY 2015 CR-Omnibus follows.

Public and Assisted Rental Housing

Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA)

The CR-Omnibus bill requests $9.730 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance, which is $187 million less than the FY 2014 funding level of $9.9 billion, and $16 million less the administration’s FY 2015 request. The president’s budget requested $10.3 billion to fully fund PBRA in FY 2014. Like the House and Senate bills, the CR-Omnibus approved the administration to shift to a calendar-year funding cycle for the PBRA program, as it has provided for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance for many years. This shift would make renewal funding needs more predictable, but it would also mean that contracts expiring in the course of FY 2015 will not receive a full 12 months’ of renewal funding. According to the latest estimates from HUD, Congress would need to increase renewal funding by about $1.6 billion to catch up.

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA)

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance is proposed to be funded at $19.3 billion, $127 million (less than 1 percent) more than FY 2014, but $741 million (3.7 percent) less than the request. Of that amount, $17.5 billion is for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher contract renewals, which is a $120 million (less than 1 percent) increase over FY 2014, but a cut of $521 million (3.9 percent) from the administration’s request. House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership asserts this level of funding will be sufficient to renew all vouchers in use, but it clearly isn’t enough to restore funding for the tens of thousands of vouchers lost because of sequestration. The bill also provides $75 million for the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and $130 million for Tenant Protection Vouchers, level with FY 2014.

Public Housing Capital & Operating Funds

The bill provides $1.875 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund, level with FY 2014, but $50 million less than the administration request. The Public Housing Operating Fund is funded at $4.44 billion, a $40 million increase over FY 2014, but a $160 million (3.5 percent) decrease from the administration’s request.

Choice Neighborhoods Initiative

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is proposed to be funded at $80 million, which is $10 million less than FY 2014 enacted level and $40 million less than the FY 2015 request.

Rental Assistance Demonstration

Unlike the House bill, the CR-Omnibus bill authorizes increasing the 60,000-unit cap on its Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program to 185,000 units and extends the demonstration until 2018.  Furthermore, it makes the RAD conversion authority for legacy rental assistance programs permanent.  However, the bill does not provide $10 million for incremental funding to enable RAD conversions where such incremental funding is needed for financial feasibility, as the administration requested.

Community Planning and Development (CPD) Programs

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is proposed to be funded at $3 billion, representing a $30 million or 1 percent decrease from FY 2014, but a $200 million (7.1 percent) increase from the FY 2015 request.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) is proposed to be funded at $900 million, a $100 million (10 percent) cut from FY 2014 and $50 million less than the request. However, unlike the administration and the House, the bill does not set aside HOME funds for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunities Program (SHOP). As in FY 2014, the bill maintains a separate account for SHOP and capacity building programs.  It is worth noting that HOME program funding would be 44 percent below nominal FY 2011 levels ($1.61 billion).

Homeless and Supportive Housing Programs

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants are proposed to be funded at $2.135 billion, $30 million more than FY 2014 and the House bill, but $271 million (11.3 percent) less than the request. This amount includes a $1.86 billion set aside for the continuum of care and rural housing stability assistance programs, and $250 million for Emergency Solutions Grants.

The bill provides $420 million for the Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) program, a $36.5 million (9.5 percent) increase over FY 2014 levels, but a $20 million decrease from the request.

The Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811) program is funded at $135 million, but a $9 million (7.1 percent) increase from FY 2014, and a $25 million cut from the request.

The bill would provide $330 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program to provide housing and supportive services to persons living with HIV and AIDS, which is level with FY 2014 and $2 million less than the request.

Next steps

The House is expected to consider the FY 2015 CR-Omnibus spending bill on Dec. 11, and the Senate is expected to follow shortly thereafter before adjourning for the year.

Passage of the FY 2015 CR-Omnibus will allow the 114th Congress next year–when Republicans will control both the House and Senate–to focus on the FY 2016 budget and upcoming fiscal deadlines, including the expiration of the debt ceiling suspension on March 16.  Treasury is expected to employ “extraordinary measures” to stay under the debt ceiling for a few months after that date.  Congress may consider adding reconciliation instructions in its FY 2016 budget to facilitate passage of tax and/or entitlement reform.