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Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Details of its FY 2015 Rural Housing Funding Bill

Published on May 27, 2014 by
Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Details of its FY 2015 Rural Housing Funding Bill

On May 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the bill text and accompanying report for the FY 2015 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Agriculture-Rural Development) funding bill, which provides funding for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural housing programs.  The Committee approved the bill on May 22.

A summary of the bill released after the markup states the bill provides $20.575 billion for the programs and activities it covers.  The report states the discretionary funding level is $90 million less than the FY 2014 enacted level and $228 million more than the President’s FY 2015 Budget request.  The House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittee’s FY 2015 allocation is $20.88 billion.  The House Subcommittee approved its bill on May 20.

The Senate Agriculture-Rural Development bill would provide $900 million for the Section 502 single-family unsubsidized loan program, $142 million less than the FY 2015 House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittee-passed bill, equal to the FY 2014 enacted level, and $540 million more than the President’s FY 2015 Budget request.  The bill would provide $24 billion for the Section 502 unsubsidized guaranteed loan program, equal to the FY 2015 House bill level, the FY 2014 enacted level, and the President’s request.

The bill would also provide $28 million for the Section 515 rural rental housing program and $150 million for the Section 538 multifamily loan guarantee program, equal to the levels included in the House bill, enacted in FY 2014, and included in the President’s Budget request.  Both bills contain language allowing the USDA Secretary to charge or adjust any fees to cover the projected cost of the Section 538 loan guarantees.  The bills state that the interest on those loans may not be subsidized.

The bill would provide $1.09 billion for rental assistance, $5 million more than the House bill and the President’s request and $16.5 million less than the FY 2014 level.  As does the House bill, the Senate bill includes $8 million for the Section 542 rural housing voucher program, which provides vouchers for families living in Section 515-assisted properties whose owners prepay their mortgages, and would fund the rural multifamily preservation and revitalization program at $20 million.

According to the report accompanying the bill, the Committee “is concerned with the potential impacts on very low-income tenants with the proposed minimum rent requirement, particularly as it pertains to the absence of criteria for hardship exemptions as noted in the budget request.”  The report also states that proposals for “selective renewal authority and partial year funding lack sufficient justification in meeting the goal of setting the rental assistance program on a more fiscally sustainable path.”  The Committee instructs the USDA Secretary to continue pursuing reform efforts that increase efficiency and maintain protections for very low-income rural households.  The President’s FY 2015 Budget request includes several reform proposals for the rental assistance program, including establishing a minimum rent and proposing that USDA will no longer automatically renew contracts within the same 12-month period.

It is unclear when the bill will be considered by the Senate, but Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) stated at the markup that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reserved floor time in June and July to consider appropriations bills.  The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittee-reported bill on May 29.  See NCSHA’s funding chart for additional information on HUD and USDA housing program funding levels.

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