Federal Current Priority

National Organizations Sponsor Congressional Call-In Week

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, Mercer Alliance have teamed up with its national partners in the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) and are asking their to call their Members of Congress to ask for as much funding as possible for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including an INCREASE to HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.

The House and Senate have both released their fiscal year (FY) 2012 funding bills in recent weeks, which include proposed funding levels for HUD's low-income housing and homelessness programs. Their proposals included almost no additional funding for low-income housing and homelessness programs and flat funding for HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are now expected to work in conference over the coming weeks to reconcile differences in the two bills and come to an agreement on compromise funding levels for HUD and other programs before final legislation is passed. This could be the last chance for advocates to reach out to their Members and impact the final funding levels for FY 2012.

The call-in week aims to convince Members of Congress to provide as much funding for HUD as possible. We urge you to call all your Members of Congress next week and ask them to provide as much funding for HUD as possible so that McKinney-Vento programs receive a much-needed increase.

What You Can Do:

Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  1. Call the Washington, DC offices of your Members of Congress. Ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues.
  2. Explain the importance of increasing HUD funding for McKinney-Vento programs using these talking points as a guide.
  3. Request that the housing staff person ask his/her boss to contact Appropriations Committee leaders to request moving enough additional money into the FY 2012 HUD funding bill to pay for an increase in homelessness funding.
  4. Ask others to be a part of this national effort! Reach out to colleagues, friends, family, and networks and ask them to take a moment to call their Members on this important issue. Customize this sample action alert and use it to mobilize others.
  5. Let us know which offices you contacted by emailing Kate Seif at cseif@naeh.org.

Senate Committee Flat Funds McKinney, Recommends New VASH, Homeless Demonstration Funding

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2012 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The legislation included:
  • $1.901 billion for HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants (the same amount as in FY 2011);
  • $75 million for new HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers; and
  • $5 million for a homeless demonstration program (see article below for more information).
  • More information on the draft legislation is available here.
While we greatly appreciate the funding for new HUD-VASH vouchers and the homeless demonstration, we know that flat funding for HUD's McKinney-Vento program is insufficient to meet the needs of the increasing number of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the United States.

Earlier this month, the House HUD Appropriations Subcommittee also recommended providing funding for new HUD-VASH vouchers but did not provide an increase in funding for HUD's McKinney-Vento program.

What You Can Do:
  1. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  2. Call the Washington, DC offices of your Members of Congress. Ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues.
  3. Mention how glad you were to see that both the House and Senate recommended funding for new HUD-VASH vouchers, but explain that the funding level for the McKinney-Vento program is insufficient to meet the needs in your community.
  4. Request that the housing staff person ask his/her boss to contact Appropriations Committee leaders to request moving enough additional money into the FY 2012 HUD funding bill to pay for an increase in homelessness funding.
  5. Let us know which offices you contacted by emailing Kate Seif at cseif@naeh.org.

Your input is needed on HHS Funding bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved its FY 2012 funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week. The legislation included approximately:
  • $89 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services, including about $14.6 million in new funding for an initiative targeting mental health and substance abuse services to homeless and at-risk people (see below for more information); and
  • $116 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs (the same as in FY 2011).
The House HHS Appropriations Subcommittee has yet to release its version of the legislation. We must contact our representatives in the House to urge them to fund the demonstration included in the Senate bill and to provide an increase in funding for RHYA. We know that the Senate's funding level for RHYA programs is insufficient to meet the needs of the increasing number of youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended funding a demonstration project to improve coordination among housing and services resources. The Committee's draft legislation would provide $5 million within HUD for payments to public housing authorities (PHAs) that partner with state and local agencies providing TANF, Medicaid, or other services through HHS, as well as Department of Education homeless liaisons, to provide housing and key support services to homeless and at-risk households. In addition, $14.6 million would be available within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to be coordinated with HUD. These resources would aim to provide services in permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless people.

What You Can Do:
  1. Call your representative's Washington, DC office. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  2. Explain the importance in your community of RHYA programs and programs that couple housing and services for chronically homeless people.
  3. Request that the representative contacts House Appropriations Committee leaders to request $14.6 million for the homeless demonstration and $135 million for RHYA programs in the FY 2012 HHS funding bill.
  4. Let us know which office(s) you contacted by emailing Kate Seif at cseif@naeh.org.
For more information click here

Help Strengthen Our Communities

Policy Recommendations of the Housing Community Development Network (HCDNNJ) and the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness (NJANEH)

1. Build the capacity of federal housing resources to address the housing needs of very low income workers and people on fixed incomes:

Problem: The section 8 rental assistance voucher program is currently the best vehicle to help very low-income (e.g. under 30% of median income or earning under $25,000year for a family of four) working people and people on fixed incomes afford the high housing costs in New Jersey. A person on SSI receives $583/month and a family of three on TANF receives $424/month. Over 1/3 of the jobs in NJ pay under $25,000/year. There are over a million low income people who pay over half their income to live in New Jersey.

Background:

  • The Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, H.R. 3045 passed out of the House Financial Services committee in 2009. This bill will improve the Housing Choice Voucher program for tenants and housing authorities alike.
  • The National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (NHTF) would establish dedicated sources of funds for the production, preservation and rehabilitation of 1.5 million affordable homes over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the Trust Fund has no funding source. President Obama has provided for $1 billion funding in his FY11 budget proposal.
  • A limited proposal to provide an exchange program for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) used in connection with bond financing was included in H.R. 4849, the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010, which passed the House on March 24th.

Action: Pass the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act in the House and have it introduced and passed in the Senate. Find a revenue source for the NHTF. Stimulate the LIHTC market by promoting investors return to the marketplace and re-start stalled projects.

2. Strengthen our economy by preserving housing that is currently affordable:

Problem: New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the nation to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Over ¼ million low and moderate-income New Jersey residents have severe housing needs, meaning that they pay over 50% of their income on housing. HUD's own recent worst case housing needs report finds that “worsening shortages of housing affordable and available to extremely-low-income renters…show the underlying gap between demand and supply continues.” We cannot afford to lose any housing that is currently affordable in the state.

Background: H.R. 4868, the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act is comprehensive legislation to prevent the loss of affordable housing dwelling units.

Among the provisions of the bill, it would:

  • Allow owners to request project-based assistance (either project-based rental assistance or project-based voucher assistance) in lieu of enhanced voucher assistance. In exchange for receiving such assistance, an owner would be required to maintain affordability of 20 years.
  • Protect the rights of states and local governments to enact strong preservation legislation.

The bill also would enhance the ability of tenants to protect and preserve their homes

Action: Pass HR 4868 and its Senate counterpart.

3. Create a real program to end homelessness:

Problem: There is no place in New Jersey where the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is affordable to someone working full-time earning under $25,000/year, receiving SSI or TANF. The recent economic crisis and high unemployment has lead to a record number of New Jersey residents becoming homeless. Unless programs to address homelessness are strengthened in coming years — community plans to end homelessness are not likely to succeed in meeting their worthy goals.

Background:

  • Reforms to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act were signed into law last year. These reforms will address prevention but we also need at least $2.4 billion funding to help produce new permanent housing. The President’s proposed budget increases funding from $1.865 to $2.055 billion.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is an important program to address the needs of the homeless. $120 million in funding is needed to help pay for services in supportive housing. At least $15.8 million, as requested in the President’s budget, is needed for wrap-around services that can be tied to a voucher.
  • Provide funding for 250,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers, including the $85 million in the President’s budget to provide approximately 10,000 new housing vouchers for people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Support the proposal for a new Transforming Rental Assistance (TRA) initiative that would begin to combine funding streams for 13 HUD programs into one flexible and streamlined source of funding.
  • Enact S.1547, Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and S.1160/ H.R. 403, Homes for Heroes Act.

Actions: Support the legislation and appropriations listed above.

4. Fully fund HUD housing programs.

Problem: In past years there has been an underfunding of essential housing programs. Homelessness is expanding across the country. The number of Americans who receive rent subsidies remains stuck at about one fourth of those eligible. The stock of housing affordable to those at the bottom of the income scale due to disability, poor education, or disappearing jobs continues to deteriorate. The building blocks of community development and affordable housing help ensure the future sustainability of many communities and encourage critically needed private sector investment and business growth. A serious effort to rebuild these important resources is necessary.

Action: In addition to appropriations listed above we raise the following:

  • Support inclusion of 100% of funds needed to cover public housing operating costs, a positive increase from previous budget requests, as well as the renewal of existing housing choice vouchers and project-based contracts.
  • Restore the proposed cuts to the HOME program from $1.825 to $1.65 billion. With the cut in state housing funds, HOME is critical to help fund housing production and rental assistance in NJ.

Restore the cuts in programs that produce housing for very low income seniors and people with disabilities (the cuts to Section 202 from $825 to $274 million and the cuts in the 811 programs from $300 to $90 million).


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