Archive for March, 2014

Workforce Housing Challenge Killed

HB 1297, the latest attempt to undermine the NH Workforce Housing Law, which had proposed requiring towns to receive approval by the local legislative body (i.e., town meeting or ballot) before applying for or accepting “workforce housing grants,” was killed on the House floor March 5. The Municipal and County Government Committee had unanimously recommended HB 1297 inexpedient to legislate,and the House adopted this recommendation without debate.

Housing Credit

House Ways & Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) released a discussion draft of a tax reform package that retains just three business tax expenditures – one of which is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit — while eliminating all others in Federal Code. While the broad tax reform proposal is considered a non-starter this session, the fact that the Housing Credit survived in this proposal is cause for optimism, and may serve to inform the broader policy discussion about the importance of these credits and public-private partnerships to the development of affordable housing.

Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure

H.R. 3543, the Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) now has 24 cosponsors, including NH Representative Carol Shea-Porter, and has been referred to the Committee on Financial Services. PTFA is the only federal protection for renters living in foreclosed properties, and provides these renters with the right to at least 90 days’ notice before being required to move. If Congress does not act by the end of 2014, the law will expire. H.R. 3543 would remove the law’s sunset date and would add a private right of action to the law as an enforcement mechanism. S. 1761, the Senate version of the legislation, is sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

2015 Budget

After receiving President Obama’s budget request March 4, Congressional appropriators began work on their FY ‘15 spending bills. House and Senate Appropriations Committees are now working to divide the total spending amount for the fiscal year among the 12 appropriations subcommittees, resulting in what are called the 302(b) allocations. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs stated that they will proceed with establishing 302(b) subcommittee allocations within the FY15 spending caps, not the higher amount requested by the Administration. See http://bit.ly/MLyt2i for updated Federal budget charts.

Olmstead settlement

A settlement has been approved by a Federal Court on a lawsuit brought by mental health advocates on the lack of progress on implementation of the state’s 10-year mental health plan, which calls for improved treatment and residential opportunities in community settings. Housing advocates and others can read the notice of proposed settlement at the Disability Rights Center site http://www.drcnh.org

Housing Regulation, SB185 Housing Study Commission

Senator Watters has filed two bill requests stemming from recommendations of the SB185 commission on state regulatory barriers to housing. One, SB387, would broaden some exemptions for developments under RSA 356-A, the Land Sales Full Disclosure Act and broaden the communities to which it applies, with the goal of lowering development costs. A second, SB393, would change RSA 204-C regarding developers return on equity, now limited to 12%. Its goal is getting property owners to re- capitalize.

This Commission continues to meet monthly, and upcoming topics include housing barriers for extremely low-income households. Updates and info can be found at a new Commission site http://www.nhhfa.org/housing-data-state-planning-commission.cfm.

FY 14 & Omnibus Policy Changes

Funding levels for HUD programs in the FY 14 budget represent an attempt to restore pre-sequester funding levels, although this was not achieved for every program. For a detailed comparison chart, see Budget Chart at https://housingactionnh.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/FY14-HUD-budget-chart-comparison.pdf.

There were also several policy reforms included in the Omnibus that advanced some initiatives pursued by advocates in other authorizing legislation:

•  Definition of “Extremely Low Income” – The bill creates a new statutory definition of ELI (through HUD rulemaking), as was proposed in prior iterations of the Section Eight Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA), to mean having an income that is the higher of either 30% of area median, or the federal poverty line, adjusted for family size.

•  Revised Section 8 Inspections – The Omnibus allows for biennial, instead of annual inspections and permits “alternate inspection methods,” which would allow inspections conducted pursuant to a federal, state, or local housing program (including HOME and the low income housing tax credit programs) to be used in lieu of inspections carried out under the voucher program.

•   Rental Assistance Administration – Also included is language allowing nonprofits to administer rental assistance with FY12 – FY14 funds. While not considered a permanent fix to this technical change brought about by the HEARTH Act, it does provide a temporary solution to nonprofit agencies.

Housing Regulation, SB 185 Study Commission

Senator Watters has filed two bill requests stemming from recommendations of the SB185 commission on state regulatory barriers to housing. One, SB387, would broaden some exemptions for developments under RSA 356-A, the Land Sales Full Disclosure Act and broaden the communities to which it applies, with the goal of lowering development costs. A second, SB393, would change RSA 204-C regarding developers return on equity, now limited to 12%. Its goal is getting property owners to re- capitalize.

This Commission continues to meet monthly, and upcoming topics include housing barriers for extremely low-income households. Updates and info can be found at a new Commission site http://www.nhhfa.org/housing-data-state-planning-commission.cfm.

National Housing Trust Fund, GSE Reform

After a rules change, known as the “nuclear option,” was passed in the US Senate, Representative Mel Watt was confirmed as director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA). All affordable housing advocates’ eyes are now on Watt to finally implement funding of the National Housing Trust Fund from the profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to watch for other reforms to the national housing finance system to support low- and moderate-income households.

Just days after Mel Watt took office Jan. 6, a group of Senators, including NH’s Senator Jeanne Shaheen, sent a letter to Watt asking him to begin the capitalization of the Trust Fund as required by law. The letter points out that Fannie and Freddie have reported seven and eight consecutive quarters of profit, respectively, and have paid more than $185 billion in dividends to Treasury. The NHTF is seen as a critical piece of the solution of addressing the lack of affordable rental housing nationwide. A New York Times editorial gets to the heart of the matter at http://nyti.ms/1eFeNdC.