House-Senate conferees guarantee full funding for Housing Choice Vouchers in 2004 - Metropolitan Planning Council

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House-Senate conferees guarantee full funding for Housing Choice Vouchers in 2004

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 project-based contracts.

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.

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