The nearly 1,600-page draft bill includes all 12 appropriations bills, a huge achievement in this difficult budget climate. As a result of the recent short-term budget agreement, the $1.012 billion omnibus measure represents a 2.6 percent increase in overall discretionary funding compared to FY 2013’s post-sequestration enacted level of $986 million.
Given the urgent need for housing and community development investments in communities across America, the overall funding levels for HUD are slightly disappointing given the additional funding available across all discretionary programs. However, this reflects the stark budget situation facing nearly every account across the federal budget. These funding levels give us a baseline to fight for a higher investment in housing and community development programs in FY 2015, a fight that begins soon.
Despite a lower-than-hoped-for investment in HUD overall, specific programs administered by NAHRO members did see increases over current funding levels. Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance is set to receive a $1 billion boost for the renewal of existing vouchers, and administrative fee funding will increase by approximately $195 million. Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance is funded at $9.9 billion, an increase over the current $8.9 billion funding level. Incremental VASH vouchers are funded at $75 million, equal to FY 2013 levels and the President’s request.
The bill provides $4.4 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund for 2014, a meaningful increase over the 2013 level, and $1.875 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund, which represents level funding. Early estimates indicate that the Operating Fund proration in FY 2014 will be in the range of 87 to 88 percent. Choice Neighborhoods funding is reduced from the current post-sequestration level of $114 million to $90 million under the omnibus bill, with at least $55 million guaranteed for PHAs.
The Community Development Block Grant program is funded at $3.03 billion, down from the FY 2013 level of $3.078 billion after sequestration. The HOME Investment Partnerships program receives $1 billion, an increase over the current post-sequestration level of $948 million. Homeless assistance grant funding receives a modest increase under the agreement.
The administrative provisions of the omnibus bill also include language that “streamlines and reduces the costs of housing voucher programs,” including modifications to the definition of extremely low-income, streamlining inspections of units, changes to utility allowances, and a change to the definition of consortia. Other provisions, including compensation restrictions and an exemption from asset management for small agencies, carry forward from previous years largely unchanged.