Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, this amendment will provide an additional 34,000 Section 8 vouchers, 10,000 of which will be reserved for disabled families. In addition, the amendment would add almost $5 million to veterans' extended care facilities.
I wish we could offer an amendment for a greater number of new vouchers, because the need is so great. Unfortunately, with such severe cuts to so many important housing programs necessitated by the budget resolution we passed earlier this year, it is difficult to find an offset that would provide the funds necessary to do so. We must focus the scarce resources in this bill on the areas of greatest need.
Therefore, the amendment offsets the increase in funds for additional Section 8 vouchers and for the additional funding for veterans' extended care facilities by removing $200 million from the Down Payment Assistance Initiative which is an unauthorized part of the HOME program. By postponing appropriations for this initiative until it is actually authorized and until a number of concerns raised by local mayors regarding the structure of the program have been addressed, we will be able to use
these funds immediately on chronically underfunded housing programs.
Mr. Chairman, the Down Payment Assistance Initiative is not only unauthorized, no committee hearings have been held on this initiative, it is unclear how the program will be administered, it is unclear that most low-income people would have sufficient income to be able to utilize the program, and, frankly, we should hold hearings and we should properly design and authorize this program, and then we will know how much to appropriate for it. Meanwhile, we can better use these funds on the chronically
underfunded existing programs.
This bill makes dramatic and alarming cuts to next year's housing budget, [Page: H4697]
yet the need for housing assistance is staggering. By HUD's estimates, there are 5 million low-income families, almost 11 million people, who have worst-case housing needs; five million families who spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent or live in severely substandard housing. None of these 11 million people receive any housing assistance.
More importantly, there is not one local jurisdiction in the United States in which a full-time, full-time, minimum wage worker can afford the market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in his or her neighborhood. A study of 70 metropolitan areas showed that someone earning the minimum wage would have to work 100 hours a week to be able to afford the market rent in those areas.
What do we say to the working people of this country when they work endless hours, sacrificing time with their families, all in an effort to provide for their families, and they still cannot afford a decent place to live? We must not ignore these needs.
The Section 8 voucher program is one of the most effective and cost-efficient means of eliminating worst-case housing needs. 1.5 million families have been able to find affordable housing through the use of Section 8 vouchers. Rental assistance allows families to enter the private housing market and choose where they want to live. By reducing housing costs, these vouchers can free up funds within the budgets of low-income families for necessary expenses such as health and child care.
Unfortunately, the Section 8 program is severely underfunded. In New York City alone, there are nearly 200,000 people, 200,000 people, on the Section 8 waiting list. Nationwide, the average wait for those entering the Section 8 program is about 2 years; and in some places people have been on the waiting list for over 10 years.
Over the last 3 years, Congress has gradually increased Section 8 vouchers by too low an amount, but it has increased it by 50,000, 60,000, and 79,000 in the last 3 years respectively. But with a national waiting list of Section 8 vouchers being well over 1 million families today, these increases are drops in the bucket. This bill increases the number of Section 8 vouchers by only 34,000.
With so many people in need, it is not the time to reverse the progress of the last 3 years. To add only 34,000 vouchers this year is to actually cut the annual increase in vouchers by 46 percent.
This amendment will increase the housing certificate fund by $195 million to provide an additional 34,000 Section 8 vouchers, of which 10,000, as I said, will be targeted to the disabled. The remaining $4.8 million dollars in savings created by this amendment will be dedicated to the State Extended Care Facilities Program to finance the construction and renovation of veterans' nursing home and hospital care facilities.
I recognize, Mr. Chairman, that this amendment is a modest action, given the shortage of affordable housing, but it is necessary to help thousands of low-income families, while, at the same time, providing resources to improve home care facilities for our Nation's veterans. By increasing funding for programs targeted at a wide range of people, from those with disabilities, to veterans, to those working to make ends meet at low salaries, this amendment sends a message that all people are deserving
of the dignity and stability of a decent home.
I urge all my colleagues to support it.
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I think this amendment is instructive because it shows how difficult it is to find additional funds in this to reorder the priorities in this bill.
The amendment would cut $200 million from funds that the President has asked us to provide to help low-income families to become homeowners.
Now we spend approximately $16 billion on Section 8 vouchers. We are actually looking at a program that will allow individuals to use those Section 8 housing vouchers to purchase a home. It is a pilot program. We believe that the American dream still exists, and the President has said not only should we try this pilot program with Section 8 vouchers for mortgages but we should provide $200 million to low-income families to help to make the initial down payment, that big chunk of money that we
all know is necessary to plunk down before you can make a deal with a bank on the mortgage.
I cannot think of a better way, Mr. Chairman, to help families to move from welfare to work and from renting to owning. This is the President's major initiative in this bill, and I think we should honor it.
What the gentleman does is he proposes to take all of that money, all $200 million, and spend it in other areas of the bill. What he has proposed is to provide 34,000 additional Section 8 housing vouchers, and some 10,000 of those would go to disabilities.
I would submit that imitation is the highest form of flattery. That is exactly what we did in the bill. He is just doubling it.
But the problem with that is, while we have done our very best to provide new vouchers to help families in need of housing, we continue to see those funds go unused. None of the funds we provided for new housing vouchers in fiscal year 1999 or 2000 was actually used, and it is likely that this will be the case again this year, since HUD has not yet awarded the new vouchers that have been provided.
At the same time, public housing authorities continue to fail to use the vouchers they already have. On average, PHAs are providing fulfillment of only 93 percent of the vouchers that have been allocated. Consequently, huge amounts of money continue to go unspent. Last year, HUD recaptured over $1 billion in unused voucher funds, money that would have funded 171,000 vouchers.
So I cannot support, Mr. Chairman, taking these funds that will help poor families to buy their home, to get a piece of the rock, to get a piece of the American dream, to deny them that, by putting it into a program that HUD cannot possibly spend the money for.
What I urge is that we reject this amendment.
I submit for the RECORD a letter that I received in my capacity as chairman of the subcommittee from the Enterprise Foundation, the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and the National Community Development Association supporting the HOME program and that $200 million presidential earmark.
JULY 26, 2001.
Hon. JAMES T. WALSH,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, HUD, and Independent Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: The undersigned representatives of state and local governments and non-profit community development organizations thank you for increasing FY 2002 funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program to $2 billion in H.R. 2620, the FY 2002 VA/HUD appropriations bill. We strongly urge you to reject any House floor amendments to reduce HOME funding.
As you clearly recognize, HOME is one of the most important tools states and local governments have to respond flexibly to their unique and diverse affordable housing needs. HOME has consistently exceeded congressional expectations by assisting families with incomes below the HOME limits, leveraging significant public and private housing funds, and sparking innovative solutions to a wide array of housing challenges.
HOME's success in answering the nation's housing needs is limited by a single factor--inadequate funding. Though Congress authorized HOME at $2 billion when it created the program in 1990, Congress has never appropriated that amount. A HOME appropriation of $2 billion for the upcoming fiscal year is barely enough to compensate for the loss of purchasing power HOME has suffered since Congress first funded it nearly a decade ago.
We agree that a number of federal housing programs need more funding. HOME is one of the most deserving among them. Please insist on at least $2 billion in HOME funds in FY 2002.
The Council of State Community Development Agencies.
The Enterprise Foundation.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
The National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies.
The National Council of State Housing Agencies.
The National League of Cities.
The National Association of Counties.
The National Community Development Association.
Mr. Chairman, I urge that Members reject the amendment.
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, reserving the right to object, the ranking member of the authorizing committee has risen to offer an amendment, and we had had prior discussion, and I would suggest that remaining in regular order, I believe it would be the gentleman's opportunity to offer his amendment.
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman would yield, I thought that this would allow that to occur, and then all of the other ones at the end of title I.