On February 2, the U.S. House of Representatives debated, amended and passed HR 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016” (HOTMA), an amalgamation of housing legislation from previously proposed, introduced or House-passed-but-never-enacted housing bills along with new provisions that reflect current policy directions.
The stunning vote for passage with 427 yeas and no one voting nay, represented a genuine willingness by the Republican majority and Democratic minority to truly reach bipartisan agreement on a substantive policy-related piece of legislation. It involved agreement by all parties to put aside individual agendas for the sake of consensus and to move forward on legislation that promotes streamlining, efficiencies, cost-savings, regulatory relief, protects and promotes individuals and families, preserves affordable housing, increases self-sufficiency, and helps to expand access to greater opportunity.
In an election year, its unanimous passage also allowed legislators to show the nation that Congress can compromise and achieve consensus on difficult issues when it matters. As Chairman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, sponsor of HR 3700 said, regarding his co-sponsor and Ranking Member Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) of the subcommittee, “we have had a labor of love with this bill, and it took two guys from the Show Me State to show them how to do it.”
Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) led the House floor management of the bill. During floor proceedings 12 out of 14 amendments—ruled in order the previous day by the House Rules Committee—were adopted, including amendments that limits the amount families receiving certain federal housing assistance can deduct from their income for childcare expenses; that requires a HUD study to determine the impacts of the decreased deductions on rents paid by elderly and disabled individuals and families assisted under the Section 8 rental assistance and housing programs; that requires HUD to publish model guidelines for minimum heating requirements for units operated by public housing agencies receiving federal assistance; that makes permanent the exception to public housing agency resident board member requirement; and that directs HUD to work with the Labor Department to produce an annual report on interagency strategies to strengthen family economic empowerment by linking housing with essential supportive services such as employment counseling and training, financial growth, childcare, transportation, meals, youth recreational activities and other supportive services; among others. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the provisions enacted by HR 3700 would save taxpayers $311 million over five years.
The bill is not perfect —as the process of compromise and consensus essentially guarantees—some of CLPHA’s concerns with HR3700 include provisions regarding abatement of assistance; restrictions on above-income families; and the potential impact of rent increases; in addition to other perfecting language needed in the bill. Nevertheless, CLPHA and our industry partners expressed support for HR 3700 in a letter to the chairman and ranking member the day before its floor consideration, and CLPHA joined in a wider housing coalition support letter as well.
The bill now goes to the Senate where its fate is uncertain. However, given the resounding bipartisan approval for the measure by the House, the pressure to consider the bill in the Senate has just been turned up.