Please Communicate Our Priorities to Congress
PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.
Even though FY 22 began last October 1, Congress has yet to complete action on appropriations bills for the year. The most recent Continuing Resolution (CR) was set to expire February 18, but lawmakers agreed to another extension until March 11. House and Senate leaders said they hope to wrap up a final measure by then. I want to encourage all members to use this interval to convey PHADA’s priorities to your Representatives and Senators.
A chart summarizing the current funding situation is below. You will note that both chambers have included significant spending increases for our programs. For example, the Senate package would boost the Operating Fund to over $5 billion, which we estimate would come close to full funding in FY 22. This increase is especially important since many of us are feeling the effects of inflation, which now exceeds 7 percent for the year.
The Senate version would also raise the Capital Fund to a level higher than any in recent decades, $3.6 billion. This is another essential provision especially since the fate of the Build Back Better (BBB) legislation is now in serious doubt (more on that below).
Please use the information in the chart and in PHADA’s full Position Paper to make the case to your Representatives and Senators.
Please keep in mind that some lawmakers would prefer just to extend current funding through the rest of the fiscal year instead of enacting a final appropriations package. This would be devastating since none of the aforementioned increases would then be available to us. Since there only a few short weeks before a final measure is considered, please act now.
Build Back Better
I noted that the BBB legislation is seriously imperiled. As you know, the House version contains more than $150 billion in housing programs including a major replenishment of the Capital Fund at $65 billion. The bill passed the House last November but is stalled in the Senate, and it is unclear whether even a less expensive bill will be considered there. Still, please ask your two Senators to make sure housing is included to the extent some version of BBB moves in that chamber.
There is one other important issue. I mentioned in the last Advocate that I spoke on a recent panel at the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Washington meeting. One of the major concerns of mayors is the rising level of homelessness in some communities. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the federal moratorium has been lifted and evictions are rising in some areas.
At the same time, some landlords – especially small businesses – are feeling the pain of inflation combined with declining rent revenues. We should therefore echo the concerns of mayors, landlords and residents in our communications with Congress. Indeed, this is yet another reason for increasing the Housing Choice Voucher and Section 8 project-based accounts in both the FY 22 appropriations bill and in the BBB legislation.
Please Take Advantage of Potential SEMAP, PHAS Flexibilities
PHADA has consistently pushed HUD and Congress to provide greater flexibility to HAs during the ongoing pandemic. Among other things, we have argued that it is premature for HUD to begin scoring HAs under the Department’s two main assessment tools, the Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) and the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP).
The reason for this is simple, in PHADA’s view. Although virus-related conditions across the country have clearly improved, many HAs continued to be hampered by staff absences stemming from illness, rising tenant account receivables, and supply chain and inflation problems. Many residents, especially the elderly and disabled, who are more vulnerable to the virus, simply do not want inspectors in their units at this time.
The PHAS statute specifically states that HAs should not be penalized for things beyond their control. This statutory language obviously applies to the situation of many HAs right now. In addition, SEMAP is largely regulatory. Thus, HUD has the ability to consider mitigating circumstances in both programs and it should do just that.
In response to the PHADA’s advocacy, agencies have two additional opportunities to request more latitude from HUD. These flexibilities are outlined in two short PHADA papers.
The first one on SEMAP explains how HAs can ask for their scores to be waived in light of extenuating circumstances. A more recent PHADA issuance on PHAS outlines two other options for HAs. First, impacted HAs can request that REAC inspections be deferred. In addition, HAs concerned about a potentially serious decline can make the case to the Department that their score should be waived altogether because of factors beyond their control.
We encourage members to review the information PHADA has issued and take advantage of these opportunities if necessary.
As always, please feel free to contact the Washington staff for further information.