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Waters Blasts Harmful Housing Funding Bill

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Washington, DC, June 9, 2015 | comments

Following the House’s passage of a measure to fund the nation’s housing programs, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, blasted Republicans for undercutting important housing programs that protect our most vulnerable populations.

Waters also expressed her disappointment with GOP efforts to bury the debate on the housing title of the legislation, which was held late into the night on two separate occasions. She released the following statement:

“I am disappointed that Republicans have yet again endorsed historically low funding levels for our nation’s housing programs. It’s telling that Republicans chose to consider this harmful measure in the dead of night, undercutting the Democratic process and impeding debate on this critical issue.

The measure that was ultimately approved is yet another example of a Republican agenda that places families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities at the back of the line. These cuts to our housing programs risk the long-term sustainability of our public housing stock and reduce the quality of life for our most vulnerable residents and families. There are many harmful provisions in this legislation, but I’m most disheartened by efforts to revoke contributions to the Housing Trust fund, which provides states with critical resources to create much-needed rental housing for our lowest income Americans.

Undercutting support to residents and families who need it the most is simply unacceptable. This measure exacerbates our current affordable housing crisis, and does nothing to address the challenges vulnerable households face to find housing that is safe, decent and affordable.”

The legislation, known as the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill, slashes a number of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) affordable housing and community development programs, and provides deplorable funding levels for the Public Housing program. In addition, it halts funding for the Housing Trust Fund, a permanent federal fund that focuses on providing support to states to build, preserve and ultimately increase the supply of affordable rental housing for extremely low-, very low-income and homeless families. The legislation diverts funding for the Trust Fund to another program within HUD that is not as focused on those with extremely low-incomes. An amendment offered by Subcommittee on Oversight Ranking Member Al Green (D-TX) to repeal the Housing Trust Fund provision was opposed on procedural grounds by Republicans.

However, the House accepted an amendment offered by Waters that removes the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles’ (HACoLA) current exemption from a requirement to have a resident of public housing or Section 8 on its governing board. Waters offered the amendment because HACoLA is not currently in compliance with the requirements outlined in the exemption, which has directly resulted in a lack of meaningful engagement by residents of the housing authority on important policy issues, hampering the effectiveness of the programs that it administers.

Waters offered an amendment to ensure that HUD prioritizes the hiring of asset management staff in local field offices, instead of continuing to consolidate this important function within a select few “hub” and satellite offices. The amendment was designed to address HUD’s major consolidation of its multifamily offices, known as the “Multifamily Transformation.” A strong opponent of the effort, Waters successfully introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 HUD funding bill that required it to stick to a modified version of the Transformation plan, which maintains asset management staff in field offices. Waters has underscored the importance of having asset management staff in local field offices to respond to local needs, citing their intimate knowledge of the local housing market, and the necessity of on-site visits to troubled properties. She offered this year’s amendment after learning that HUD has neglected to replace vacancies in asset management positions in field offices, and only hiring new asset management staff in hub locations. The amendment was withdrawn due to Republican opposition.

Finally, Waters led strong Democratic opposition to a measure offered by Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ), which seeks to impair HUD’s efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act in such a way that relies on the disparate impact doctrine, an effective legal tool that has been used for decades to address policies that have the effect of discriminating against protected classes. Waters criticized the amendment as an effort to weaken HUD’s ability to protect Americans from discriminatory policies that deny them access to quality housing, quality neighborhood schools and other resources. Republicans voted to adopt the amendment.

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