National Housing Trust Fund and HOME program threatened in Congress

Two crucial federal housing programs – the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) and the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) – are at risk this month as members of Congress debate their funding.

HOME provides flexible affordable housing funds for local communities to use how they see fit, from promoting homeownership to providing rental housing to repairing and rehabilitating existing housing. The NHTF is more specific, targeted at expanding rental housing options for extremely low income households.

The programs have been pitted against each other during the Congressional appropriations process. In May, the House Appropriations Committee approved a Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill for Fiscal Year 2016 that transfers all intended NHTF funds to HOME and bans any other sources of NHTF funding. The bill was approved by a narrow margin, 216-210, before the full House in June. President Obama has stated that he would veto the bill if it passed the Senate.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their own THUD funding bill, which leaves funding for the NHTF intact but drastically cuts HOME – from $900 million to just $66 million, essentially torpedoing the program. As members of the House and Senate appropriations committees begin to negotiate the FY2016 budget, the fates of HOME and the NHTF are very much up in the air.

Advocates in the HOME Coalition expect funding decisions to be made by Thanksgiving, and have launched the #SaveHOME campaign to raise awareness about the program’s importance. HOME’s funding has already been cut from $1.8 billion in 2010 to $900 million. While the House bill diverts NHTF funding to HOME, it does so at a level expected to be lower than the current budget, while the Senate bill slashes HOME’s budget by 93 percent. The HOME Coalition is calling on Congress to not only save the program, but increase its funding to $1.06 billion in 2016.

It’s a vitally important program for affordable housing in Texas. From 1992 to 2014, Texas received $1.71 billion in HOME funding, resulting in the construction or preservation of more than 97,000 homes, support for more than 97,000 jobs, rental assistance for more than 17,000 families and $5.5 billion in generated local income. Under the #SaveHOME plan, Texas would receive $69.7 million in funding in 2016. Under the Senate proposal, that would be reduced to $4.4 million.

But if the House proposal wins out and NHTF funding is redirected to HOME, Texas will lose more than $10 million in funds for extremely low income rental housing in 2016, and much more in the future. The NHTF was specifically designed to be outside of Congressional appropriations, and instead funded via a small percentage of the new business generated by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This system was set up to keep the NHTF away from politics and create a dedicated, ever-growing fund. This is now threatened by the appropriations process.

Advocates from more than 7,000 organizations, representing every Congressional district, have asked their members of Congress to allow the NHTF to be funded as intended. Others, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have also weighed in. In June, dozens of senators signed a letter detailing their support for both the NHTF and HOME, noting the country’s chronic housing needs: A shortage of more than seven million rental units affordable for extremely low income families nationwide, more than 40 million households (half of all renters) paying more than 30 percent of their income towards housing and much more.

HOME and the NHTF are among the federal government’s most important tools for addressing critical affordable housing issues. You can learn more about the #SaveHOME campaign here and follow the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s updates for the latest on the NHTF.