After months of uncertainty about the final allocation of federal funds for the Housing Choice Voucher program, the work of housing advocates like MPC has been rewarded. The language of a VA-HUD appropriations bill recently passed by the House-Senate Conference ensures full funding for all housing choice vouchers currently in use through FY 2004.
After a lengthy legislative process and multiple efforts from housing
advocates throughout the country, the House-Senate conference committee has
finally approved a U.S. Veterans Administration (VA)-Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD) appropriations bill, whose language guarantees full
funding for all Housing Choce Vouchers (HCVs) currently in use during 2004.
Total funding for the voucher program for FY 2004 is expected to be $14.182
billion. This amount includes $12.811 billion for renewal of all vouchers in use
and replenishment of the reserve accounts of public housing authorities, $136
million for the central fund, and $1.235 billion for program administration. The
Housing Certificate Fund also includes $4.72 billion for renewal of Section 8
Several cuts in the HCV program proposed earlier this year by President
George W. Bush, the House, and the Senate had jeopardized full funding of this
program for the first time in history. During the last few months, housing
advocates — including MPC — educated congresspeople on the importance of a fully
funded, well-administered HCV program as a tool to fight the lack of affordable
housing in the country. In a letter signed by President MarySue Barrett, MPC warned U.S.
senators for Illinois and representatives for the Chicago metropolitan area
of the disastrous consequences that would result from the proposed
cuts in the HCV program budget for low-income families. To learn more about
MPC's position, click here.
Despite having achieved full funding for the HCV program, public
housing advocates are still concerned about other important budgetary items in the
FY 2004 VA-HUD appropriations bill. The public housing capital fund, for
instance, will remain at the FY 2003 funding level of $2.712 billion, an amount
inadequate to address the estimated $20-billion backlog in public housing capital
needs. The HOPE VI program, which funds redevelopment of dilapidated
public housing throughout the country, will receive $150 million, an
amount which improves on the president's attempt to zero out
this program, but significantly less than the $570 million that the program
received last year.
None of the funding levels in the VA-HUD appropriations bill will be final
until the omnibus bill containing it is passed by both the House and Senate and
signed by the president. Until then, HUD programs, like many other federal programs
whose budgets depend on the provisions contained in this omnibus bill, will
continue operating at FY 2003 funding levels.
To learn more about the new appropriations bill, visit the National Low
Income Housing Coalition Web
site or download their weekly newsletter.