The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services met on February 28 and approved the Committee’s views and estimates on the budget for fiscal year 2018, as required by House rules and the Congressional Budget Act. The “views and estimates” is usually drafted by the majority and is then subject to the committee review and markup process. The “views and estimates” is a process that the committee goes through each year and while it may or may not result in legislative action, it is indicative of the committee’s thinking on major issues under their jurisdiction.
The housing portion of the “views and estimates”—beginning on page 7 of the committee draft—asserts that “current federal housing policy is fractured, costly, and inefficient: the Government Accountability Office found in 2012 that 20 different federal government entities administer 160 programs, tax expenditures, and other tools that support homeownership and rental housing. In particular, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has received more than $1.655 trillion in real (2014) dollars in appropriations over its 50 years of existence and today spends over $45 billion annually on at least 85 active programs.
“Accordingly, the Committee believes we must reform and innovate how we provide assistance for housing in the 21st century with a higher purpose than simply perpetuating programs that ultimately warehouse and marginalize poor families and communities…The Committee will investigate more efficient ways to deliver housing assistance within existing budget limitations with the goals of helping people move from poverty to self-sufficiency, reforming HUD’s mission and streamlining its complex bureaucratic web of programs, and developing meaningful innovations to assist communities and neighborhoods in spreading economic prosperity to all.
“Additionally, the Committee believes we must evaluate public policies not by the good intentions of their proponents but by the results they produce, and will work to develop more meaningful metrics for programmatic success based on how many people are graduated from federal assistance to economically self-sufficient lives.”
In the section discussing specific programs under HUD, such as Native American housing, rural housing, FHA, and more—in addition to other comments—the Committee noted the following about Section 8 and public housing:
Section 8 Housing Assistance - The Committee believes that the public is better served not by expanding Section 8 but by reforming the program to target need so that public housing authorities can serve more people within existing funding levels…the Committee will continue to consider reforms to Section 8 and other assisted housing programs in order to identify and implement more efficient uses of taxpayer funds and to better help individuals achieve greater self-sufficiency.
Public Housing - …despite the investment of tens of billions of dollars in the development and maintenance of public housing units, the quality of such units continues to deteriorate. The Committee recognizes that this trend is not sustainable and that new approaches to public housing are necessary, including the implementation of alternative means to finance affordable housing development. To make more capital available to maintain and rehabilitate public housing, the Committee continues to support the concept of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
As in years past, committee members of the Democratic minority offered several amendments, on subjects including HOME, CDBG, homelessness, fair housing and more. None of the ten amendments offered by the minority were accepted by the majority, including an amendment by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) that asserted, “Congress has not provided sufficient resources to keep up with aging infrastructure of public housing. As a result, many public housing authorities around the country need to address building infrastructure needs in order to improve resident health and safety. The Committee recognizes the impact that such capital needs have on the health and well-being of residents and will seek ways to ensure capital repairs are made to improve these housing units.”