Federal Current Priority
Help Strengthen Our Communities
Policy Recommendations of the Housing Community Development Network (HCDNNJ) and the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness (NJANEH)
1. Build the capacity of federal housing resources to address the housing needs of very low income workers and people on fixed incomes:
Problem: The section 8 rental assistance voucher program is currently the best vehicle to help very low-income (e.g. under 30% of median income or earning under $25,000year for a family of four) working people and people on fixed incomes afford the high housing costs in New Jersey. A person on SSI receives $583/month and a family of three on TANF receives $424/month. Over 1/3 of the jobs in NJ pay under $25,000/year. There are over a million low income people who pay over half their income to live in New Jersey.
- The Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, H.R. 3045 passed out of the House Financial Services committee in 2009. This bill will improve the Housing Choice Voucher program for tenants and housing authorities alike.
- The National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (NHTF) would establish dedicated sources of funds for the production, preservation and rehabilitation of 1.5 million affordable homes over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the Trust Fund has no funding source. President Obama has provided for $1 billion funding in his FY11 budget proposal.
- A limited proposal to provide an exchange program for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) used in connection with bond financing was included in H.R. 4849, the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010, which passed the House on March 24th.
Action: Pass the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act in the House and have it introduced and passed in the Senate. Find a revenue source for the NHTF. Stimulate the LIHTC market by promoting investors return to the marketplace and re-start stalled projects.
2. Strengthen our economy by preserving housing that is currently affordable:
Problem: New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the nation to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Over ¼ million low and moderate-income New Jersey residents have severe housing needs, meaning that they pay over 50% of their income on housing. HUD's own recent worst case housing needs report finds that “worsening shortages of housing affordable and available to extremely-low-income renters…show the underlying gap between demand and supply continues.” We cannot afford to lose any housing that is currently affordable in the state.
Background: H.R. 4868, the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act is comprehensive legislation to prevent the loss of affordable housing dwelling units.
Among the provisions of the bill, it would:
- Allow owners to request project-based assistance (either project-based rental assistance or project-based voucher assistance) in lieu of enhanced voucher assistance. In exchange for receiving such assistance, an owner would be required to maintain affordability of 20 years.
- Protect the rights of states and local governments to enact strong preservation legislation.
The bill also would enhance the ability of tenants to protect and preserve their homes
Action: Pass HR 4868 and its Senate counterpart.
3. Create a real program to end homelessness:
Problem: There is no place in New Jersey where the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is affordable to someone working full-time earning under $25,000/year, receiving SSI or TANF. The recent economic crisis and high unemployment has lead to a record number of New Jersey residents becoming homeless. Unless programs to address homelessness are strengthened in coming years — community plans to end homelessness are not likely to succeed in meeting their worthy goals.
- Reforms to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act were signed into law last year. These reforms will address prevention but we also need at least $2.4 billion funding to help produce new permanent housing. The President’s proposed budget increases funding from $1.865 to $2.055 billion.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is an important program to address the needs of the homeless. $120 million in funding is needed to help pay for services in supportive housing. At least $15.8 million, as requested in the President’s budget, is needed for wrap-around services that can be tied to a voucher.
- Provide funding for 250,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers, including the $85 million in the President’s budget to provide approximately 10,000 new housing vouchers for people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Support the proposal for a new Transforming Rental Assistance (TRA) initiative that would begin to combine funding streams for 13 HUD programs into one flexible and streamlined source of funding.
- Enact S.1547, Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and S.1160/ H.R. 403, Homes for Heroes Act.
Actions: Support the legislation and appropriations listed above.
4. Fully fund HUD housing programs.
Problem: In past years there has been an underfunding of essential housing programs. Homelessness is expanding across the country. The number of Americans who receive rent subsidies remains stuck at about one fourth of those eligible. The stock of housing affordable to those at the bottom of the income scale due to disability, poor education, or disappearing jobs continues to deteriorate. The building blocks of community development and affordable housing help ensure the future sustainability of many communities and encourage critically needed private sector investment and business growth. A serious effort to rebuild these important resources is necessary.
Action: In addition to appropriations listed above we raise the following:
- Support inclusion of 100% of funds needed to cover public housing operating costs, a positive increase from previous budget requests, as well as the renewal of existing housing choice vouchers and project-based contracts.
- Restore the proposed cuts to the HOME program from $1.825 to $1.65 billion. With the cut in state housing funds, HOME is critical to help fund housing production and rental assistance in NJ.
Restore the cuts in programs that produce housing for very low income seniors and people with disabilities (the cuts to Section 202 from $825 to $274 million and the cuts in the 811 programs from $300 to $90 million).