Senate Dems fight to keep affordable housing fund alive

By Rebecca Shabad, The Hill, June 05, 2015

More than 30 Senate Democrats are calling on appropriators to preserve a trust fund that provides affordable housing to extremely low-income households.

Next week, the House is expected to hold a final vote on a fiscal 2016 bill funding transportation and housing programs that would essentially eliminate funding for the Housing Trust Fund.

“We are writing to express our strong support for both the National Housing Trust Fund and the HOME Investments Partnerships Program and urge you to reject any effort to reduce, divert, or eliminate funding from either program," the Democrats wrote in a letter to the leaders of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Senate’s version of the spending bill, which has not yet been released.

House Republicans, meanwhile, are proposing to end the Housing Trust Fund by shifting its funding to HOME, another housing program.

While HOME provides affordable housing, the Democrats said the Housing Trust Fund was “designed to be a mandatory program focused specifically on extremely low-income families who are in need of support.”

The Housing Trust Fund, they said, is the only federal program that provides new money to specifically expand affordable rental housing to extremely low-income households, most of which fall below the federal poverty line.

HOME, on the other hand, has a wider range of uses.

As a result of a law Congress passed in 2008, signed by then-President George W. Bush, the Housing Trust Fund was created as a permanent program.

While the fund is not subject to annual appropriations, Congress can provide one source of its revenue. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supposed to serve as another source, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The White House has already raised the issue with the House bill in a veto threat last week.

The administration said it “strongly opposes” $767 million in funding for HOME, which is more than $130 million below the 2015 level. It said it also opposes the transfer of funds from the Housing Trust Fund to HOME, which it said “effectively eliminates” the program.

President Obama had requested a total of $283 million more next year for both programs.

The letter was signed by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

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