House Appropriations Committee Passes FY 2016 THUD Bill
The House Appropriations Committee yesterday voted along party lines to pass the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) funding bill. With the exception of a handful of successful amendments unrelated to housing programs, the bill is unchanged from the version the THUD Subcommittee reported April 29. Despite the small number of changes to the bill, several Committee members expressed frustration during the markup about the difficulty of providing adequate funding for programs in the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction because of the constraints of spending limitations imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA).
In his opening remarks, THUD Subcommittee Ranking Member David Price (D-NC) called the BCA funding level “totally inadequate.” Subcommittee Chairman Diaz-Balart (R-FL) recognized this concern but stressed that the bill adheres to BCA caps because the Committee has to move forward under current law. Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) urged her colleagues to work quickly to enact legislation similar to the Murray-Ryan Bipartisan Budget Act that provided relief from original BCA spending caps for FYs 2014 and 2015.
The FY 2016 THUD bill provides a total of $55.3 billion in discretionary spending for transportation and housing programs but falls $1.5 billion short of what HUD says it needs just to maintain current programs in FY 2016, and is $9.7 billion less than the Administration’s Budget request. While the Committee claims to maintain HOME funding at the FY 2015 level of $900 million, it does so by appropriating just $767 million for HOME and transferring all funding—which the Committee estimates at $133 million—that would otherwise capitalize the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) into the HOME account to supplement the reduced appropriation. The bill would also effectively eliminate the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) by prohibiting HTF replenishment from any source.
Two Committee members offered ultimately unsuccessful amendments that would have upped HOME funding to the Administration-proposed level of $1.06 billion and removed the language transferring funds from the HTF to HOME. First, Price offered an amendment to fund 12 programs, including HOME, the Public Housing Capital Fund, Choice Neighborhoods, Lead Hazard Control, Section 811 Housing for the Disabled, and Section 202 Housing for the Elderly at their Administration’s FY 2016 Budget Request levels. After Diaz-Balart stated that he would oppose the amendment because it would violate the BCA caps, the amendment failed along party lines, with 21 Democrats voting in favor of the amendment and 29 Republicans voting against.
Later, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), an original cosponsor of HTF authorizing legislation in 2007, offered an amendment that also would have increased HOME funding to $1.06 billion and eliminated the bill’s HTF language. Like the Price amendment, the Lee amendment failed along party-lines with 20 Democrats voting in favor of the amendment and 29 Republicans voting against.
Several other housing-related amendments also failed on party lines, including two sponsored by Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), the first of which would have restored funding to the Office of Healthy Housing and Lead Hazard Control to its FY 2015 level, and the second which would have increased the overall allocation for THUD. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) offered an unsuccessful amendment that would have added 100,000 new Section 8 vouchers with set-asides for veterans and domestic violence victims. Unlike the Administration’s Budget, which requested $178 million for new vouchers for families, veterans, and tribal families experiencing homelessness, the Committee-passed FY 2016 THUD bill provides for no new vouchers.
The House leadership has not yet indicated when it will schedule floor consideration of the bill, but it will likely take place directly before or after the House’s late May recess.