Congress considers short-term funding bill as fiscal deadline looms

With only two weeks to go before the end of the 2019 Fiscal Year, the House of Representatives this week will consider a short-term funding bill that would extend current federal funding levels into November. The stop-gap measure, called a Continuing Resolution, would last until the week before Thanksgiving and buy lawmakers time to reach a compromise on spending levels before money runs out at the end of September.

While the House has finished much of its work on housing funding bills, the Senate lags behind with appropriations bills outstanding for HUD, USDA, and several other key agencies.  Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved topline funding numbers for their twelve FY2020 spending bills, called 302(b) allocations. The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill received $74.3 billion; however, this amount is around $1.5 billion less than the FY20 THUD bill passed by the House.  This week, the Senate will mark-up bills for USDA and HUD funding and the bills are expected to be non-controversial; however, other Senate appropriations bills have already stalled on a partisan basis, increasing the chances that a stop-gap funding bill will be necessary.  NAHMA will provide specific program funding levels from Senate’s spending bill later in this week’s update.

While Continuing Resolutions are preferable to lapses in government funding, NAHMA supports timely, full-year funding bills to avoid uncertainty for affordable housing communities across the country. Following a partial government shutdown earlier this year, funding levels for some HUD accounts – notably the 202 PRACs – will need to be monitored closely during a Continuing Resolution scenario as flat funding levels strain to keep up with inflationary spending adjustments.

We will keep members up-to-date about federal funding, and we urge members to reach out to their lawmakers in support of robust and timely investments in HUD and USDA housing programs. For advocacy resources, please visit NAHMA’s Grassroots Advocacy webpage here and our toolkit for reaching out to Congress here. As always, please let your Government Affairs team at NAHMA know if you are experiencing funding challenges in your portfolio.

House advances bills to require carbon monoxide detectors and boost rural affordable housing preservation

Last week, the House advanced the “Strategy and Investment in Rural Housing Preservation Act of 2019” by voice vote. H.R. 3620 was introduced this summer by Subcommittee Chairmen Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver, both democrats from Missouri; the bill would permanently authorize USDA’s Multifamily Housing Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) Program and further authorize $1 billion to carry out the program, which would help clear substantial backlog in the program. The bill also allows decoupling of Rental Assistance as a last resort, requires USDA to come up with a plan for preservation of rural multifamily housing backed by USDA loans, and establishes an advisory committee to advise USDA in implementing this plan.

The House also passed the “Carbon Monoxide Alarms Leading Every Resident To Safety Act of 2019” (CO ALERTS Act). H.R. 1690 would require Carbon Monoxide detectors in project-based and tenant-based Section 8, and rural housing units with potential carbon monoxide sources like gas-fired appliances, fireplaces, forced air furnaces, and attached garages. The House version of the bill authorizes $300 million over the next three years to help owners implement the requirement; the Senate version of the bill, which has similar provisions and enjoys bipartisan support, has yet to advance.

Senate hears testimony on Treasury, HUD Housing Finance Reform plans; FHFA announces revised MFH purchase loan caps

Following the recent coordinated release of housing finance overhaul plans by HUD and the Treasury Department, the Senate Banking Committee last week held a hearing titled “Housing Finance Reform: Next Steps.” During the hearing, the Committee heard testimony from HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria.

In the closely-watched hearing, lawmakers pressed the Administration on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in preserving housing affordability, including through affordable housing goals, investments in rural and tribal areas, a sustained “right to housing,” and mortgage access. The witnesses defended efforts to de-risk the housing finance market in their respective plans, which include releasing Fannie and Freddie from conservatorship and replacing the affordable housing goals with fee assessments.

The HUD and Treasury plans to overhaul the government-sponsored entities (GSEs) originated from a White House directive earlier this year and incorporate far-reaching recommendations, some of which can be done administratively and without congressional approval. NAHMA’s recent summary of the housing finance reform plans is available online here.

On Friday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) also announced a revised cap structure on the multifamily businesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the new multifamily loan purchase caps will be $100 billion for each Enterprise, a combined total of $200 billion in support to the multifamily market, for the five-quarter period Q4 2019 – Q4 2020. The new caps apply to all multifamily business.