March News and Legislative Update
Although the lengthy federal government shutdown is still impacting the housing community as they work to catch up with payments and project delays, the final passage of the FY 19 budget brought generally robust funding levels to key programs. At the state level, several promising bills are working their way through the legislature.
See below for the latest federal and state affordable housing news.
FY 19 Appropriations. President Trump signed FY 19 into law on February 15. The spending package builds on the 10% increase in HUD funding in FY18. Compared to FY18, the negotiated package increases funding for tenant-based rental assistance, public housing, project-based rental assistance, and homeless assistance grants. The bill also provides enough funding to renew all contracts for Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities and Section 202 Housing for the Elderly and $25 million for a mobility housing voucher demonstration for families with young children.
REAC Inspection Notification Period. HUD announced in a media release on February 20 a new Notice to reduce to 14 calendar days (from 120 days) the advance notification inspectors must give before conducting physical inspections of public housing and private HUD-assisted multifamily housing. The intent is to reduce the lead time for public housing agency staff. The Notice applies to all properties subject to the Real Estate Assessment Center’s (REAC’s) Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS).
FY 20 White House Proposal. President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget, released on March 11, proposes to drastically cut housing programs. Like his other budget requests in FY18 and FY19, the proposal would cut federal investments in affordable homes and increase rents. Overall, the administration proposes to cut HUD by $9.6 billion or 18% below 2019 enacted levels. The bill is unlikely to serve as a functional blueprint the congressional budget, according to House and Senate appropriators.
FHFA Director Nomination. President Trump has nominated Mark Calabria, chief economist to Vice President Mike Pence, to be the new director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency for a term of five years. Before his current position in the administration, Mr. Calabria was director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. His nomination was narrowly confirmed by the Senate Banking Committee in a vote of 13-12. The full Senate is expected to vote sometime this spring.
Affordable Housing Fund. SB 15, that proposes a $10 million surplus appropriation into the Affordable Housing Fund [the Fund], as well as an annual $5 million payment from the real estate transfer tax into the Fund, passed the Senate on March 14. A smaller appropriation for the Fund was proposed by Governor Sununu in HB 2, at the level of $5 million. The state budget for state fiscal years 20-21 is now before the House Finance committee where advocates are encouraging funding at the SB 15 levels.
Housing Appeals Board. SB 306, that would create a statewide housing appeals board, passed the Senate on March 14. Similar to the Board of Tax and Land Appeals, the Housing Appeals Board would be an alternative for review of housing-related cases by the Superior Court. The Board is specifically designed to provide administrative efficiencies, subject-matter expertise, and adjudication after local reviews are exhausted. The bill, supported by the Business and Industry Association, the NH Association of Realtors and Housing Action NH, now heads to the House.
Homeless Services Expansion. SB 84, that proposes an appropriation for Senate Bill 84 to expand homeless services passed the Senate on March 14. SB 84 identifies the most pressing priorities identified by the Department of Health and Human Services and New Hampshire’s homeless service providers in order to: 1) serve those who are experiencing homelessness through expansion of case management ($2 million); 2) transition the homeless into more permanent housing solutions through rapid re-housing ($1 million); and 3) prevent an increase in homelessness in New Hampshire through eviction prevention ($2 million).