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Capitol Express - June 15, 2011

Capitol Express

Congressional and Administration News | Federal Register | Hearings and Events | Research and Reports

Congressional and Administration News

House Appropriators Consider Agriculture, Energy Funding Bills

On May 31, the House Committee on Appropriations advanced H.R. 2112, which sets appropriations levels for the Department of Agriculture (USDA), including several rural housing programs. If enacted, the bill would reduce the obligation limit for Section 502 Single Family Direct Loans by nearly 25 percent (to $845.7 million), Section 515 Rental Housing Direct Loans by approximately 15 percent (to $58.6 million), and eliminate funding for the Multi-Family Preservation Demonstration Program and Revolving Loans. The Section 502 Loan Guarantee program obligation limit would remain at approximately $24 billion. Funding for Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants would increase by nearly 27 percent (to $12.5 million). The full House is expected to consider this legislation during the week of June 13-17.

In addition, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water advanced legislation that would provide funding for the Department of Energy. The bill includes $1.2 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which administers the Weatherization Assistance Program. The full committee is expected to consider the legislation on June 15. For more information, view the full Energy and Water appropriations bill and committee summary table. More information on federal funding can be found at the Enterprise Budget and Appropriations webpage.

HUD Releases Updated Income Limits

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released the fiscal year (FY) 2011 Income Limits, which help determine applicant eligibility for much of the affordable and assisted housing provided by HUD, the Department of the Treasury and other federal agencies.

The income limits apply to all public housing, as well as units funded through the Section 8, Section 202 Housing for the Elderly, Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities, Native American housing and rural housing programs. Income limits are developed to reflect the distinct market characteristics and median incomes of every metropolitan and non-metropolitan area across the country. HUD has also released the income limits for the FY 2011 Multifamily Tax Subsidy Projects (MTSP), which apply to Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and tax-exempt bond-financed developments.

HUD Announces Green Refinance Plus Program

On May 31, HUD announced a joint program between the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Fannie Mae to help provide low-cost financing to owners seeking to refinance and retrofit affordable multifamily rental properties for preservation, energy efficiency and other green capital improvements. The Green Refinance Plus program will target older buildings and expiring mortgages on Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects. For more information, read the HUD Press Release and Green Refinance Plus fact sheet.

EPA Announces Brownfield Grant Recipients

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced $76 million in grants to 40 states and three tribes to redevelop brownfield areas and boost local economies. Brownfield properties are contaminated areas that have been exposed to hazardous substances and pollutants and are therefore difficult and costly to develop.

These grants will be used to assess and remediate properties, which can then be developed for productive use. Grant recipients plan to use the sites to add affordable housing, an energy efficient charter school, parks and green open space, among other purposes. For more information read the EPA press release.

Federal Register Update

The federal government recently released several Federal Register notices and funding opportunities related to housing and community development (listed below in chronological order):

Hearings and Events

House Committee Holds HOME Program Hearing

On June 3, the House Committee on Financial Services (HFSC) held a hearing on HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), which provides formula grants to states and localities to fund affordable housing. The hearing discussed current program requirements and HUD oversight in light of a recently published series of Washington Post articles on housing development projects around the country that have used HOME funds but failed to produce housing in a timely manner.

While Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) opened the hearing to note his support for retaining the program, several committee members called for stronger HUD oversight, more stringent reporting by grantees, greater accountability for misspent funds, and updated eligibility requirements for contractors accepting HOME funds. Other committee members highlighted the quality and quantity of affordable housing units built and the level of reinvestment in communities as a result of the program.

The two witnesses—HUD Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Mercedes Marquez and HUD Assistant Inspector General for Audit James Heist—largely defended the HOME program but acknowledged opportunities for improved oversight. More information, including full testimony and the archived hearing video, can be found at the HFSC hearing webpage.

Congressional Hearing and Markup Update

The House Committees on Appropriations and Financial Services and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs scheduled hearings on a range of topics, including FY 2012 appropriations, financial and regulatory reform and government oversight.

Budget and Appropriations

Financial and Regulatory Reform

Government Oversight

Upcoming Events

The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA), Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD), Institute for Professional and Executive Development, Inc. (IPED), National Housing and Rehabilitation Association (NH&RA) and National Housing Conference (NHC) will hold upcoming events related to housing and community development.

Research and Reports

Joint Center for Housing Studies Publishes Sobering 2011 Report

On June 6, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University  released its State of the Nation’s Housing 2011 report. This yearly report provides an assessment of the current national housing market and summarizes housing-related economic and demographic trends. The 2011 report once again paints a sober picture of the U.S. housing market, as the recession continues to place downward pressure on single-family housing prices and production. 

However, the report also notes that there are signs that the rental market is beginning to recover as vacancies decrease and rents increase. Such a tightening in the rental market will likely worsen the housing affordability problems facing the nation, an important issue that is also highlighted in the report. 

Housing and Community Development Reports Released

The Census Bureau, Department of the Treasury (Treasury), Government Accountability Office (GAO), HUD, Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), Housing Assistance Council (HAC), National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), Novogradac & Company and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released the following reports related to housing and community development: