March 31, 2017

Community Developments: Section 4 and HOME Dear Colleague Letters Circulating

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  • As Congress begins considering fiscal year 2018 appropriations requests, members in both chambers are now circulating “Dear Colleague” letters urging appropriators to provide sufficient funding levels for affordable housing and community development programs. Letters are currently circulating that request $35 million in funding for the Section 4 Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development program, and $1.2 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships program. Enterprise is encouraging organizations and advocates to urge their Members of Congress to sign onto the Dear Colleague letters. The deadline for the Senate and House Section 4 letters and the Senate HOME letter is Tuesday, April 4, and the deadline for the House HOME letter is close of business today, March 31. Learn more about advocacy tools to support the Section 4 program and the HOME program on the Enterprise blog.
  • As previously reported in Community Developments, New York State has yet to allocate the full $2 billion that was approved last year for a multi-year plan to address affordable housing. In June, state lawmakers agreed to allocate just $150 million – less than 8 percent of the initial allotment. The rest of the money remains locked behind of memorandum of understanding that would require signatures from Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate President John Flanagan. According to Judi Kende, vice president and New York market leader at Enterprise, a multi-year plan would inspire confidence among investors and developers. (CityLab, March 30)
     
  • In an op-ed, Judi Kende and Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, argue that New York State must release the funds quickly, especially given that President Trump has proposed deep cuts to federal programs. If Congress chooses to reduce or eliminate the programs, there will be significantly less money going to states for affordable housing and community development purposes. According to Kende and Fee, Governor Cuomo should use his influence to bring the state Senate and the Assembly to the negotiating table with the understanding that developing a comprehensive, long-term statewide housing plan before the April 1 state budget deadline is critical to communities across New York. (NY Slant, March 31) One group of New Yorkers particularly hurt by the shortage of affordable housing is older people who live on fixed incomes, writes Kende and Michael J. Callaghan from Nazareth Housing, in another op-ed. When burdened by rent costs, many seniors skip meals, miss doctor appointments or let prescriptions go unfilled. According to Kende and Callaghan, the Elder Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) proposed in the New York Assembly would provide rental assistance to low-income seniors who pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. (CityLimits, March 29)
  • A recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services, OPRE and Abt Associates examines the well-being of young children 20 months after staying in emergency homeless shelters with their families. The study finds that after staying in an emergency homeless shelter for 20 months, young children were disadvantaged in many areas of development compared to same-age peers nationally. The young children who participated in the study scored worse in pre-reading skills and had higher rates of overall behavior problems and early development delays compared to national norms for children their age. In addition, the study finds that enrollment in the Head Start program and other early education or center-based care programs was associated with greater school readiness among children who had been in emergency shelters with their families. (Department of Health & Human Services, March 14)
  • An analysis by The Washington Post shows that rural counties across the country have experienced the most rapid increase in disability rates over the past decade, as one-third of working-age adults in rural counties receive monthly disability payments. According to the analysis, 133 out of the 136 counties with the highest rates of disability are rural counties in which many working-age applicants experience repeated job loss and unemployment. Rates of disability are particularly high in working-class areas, in communities where residents are older and in places with shrinking populations and few immigrants. The federal government this year will spend an estimated $192 billion on disability payments, more than the combined total for food stamps, welfare, housing subsidies and unemployment assistance. (The Washington Post, March 30)

  • Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to approve President Trump’s Labor Secretary Nominee Alexander Acosta. The approval means that Acosta’s nomination must now be voted on by the full Senate at some future date. (The Washington Post, March 30) Also yesterday, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue moved a step closer toward becoming Agriculture Secretary, receiving approval from the Senate Agriculture Committee. Perdue’s nomination now also moves to the full Senate for a vote. (The Hill, March 30)

  • The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has released the latest edition of its Community Development Investments newsletter, which focuses on the role of national banks and federal savings associations in preserving affordable rental housing. The newsletter presents examples of how financial institutions and nonprofit organizations have utilized federal and state programs, tax incentives, loan funds and the secondary market to create innovative partnerships in urban and rural areas. (OCC, March 30)

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