CAHC’s National Housing Roundtable: Important Federal Bills Coming in 2024
By: Alysha Gardner, Senior Policy Analyst, Partnership for Strong Communities
As we come to the end of the year, let’s look back on progress in 2023 at the federal level on housing challenges and forward to policy solutions with a recap of the National Housing Roundtable at the 2023 Connecticut Affordable Housing Conference (CAHC).
The Partnership welcomed distinguished guests Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murphy, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) New England Regional Administrator Juana B. Matias to kick-off the session.
- Regional Administrator Matias: “At its core, housing is about people. Housing is critical to people’s livelihood, physical and mental health; is critical to helping support and strengthen families, as well as necessary to build strong, vibrant, and thriving communities.”
- Senator Blumenthal: “We have strong bipartisan support in the US Senate in favor of doing something about housing.”
- Senator Murphy: “This issue [housing] is perhaps the highest volume issue that we hear about from our office in Connecticut.”
Following their remarks, the Partnership welcomed a panel of national experts including Kim Johnson, National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), Dennis Shea, Bipartisan Policy Center, and Deborah Thrope, National Housing Law Project (NHLP). Here are some key takeaways from the conversations.
Federal FY24 Appropriations Bills
Senator Blumenthal shared a great overview of the current state of the federal budget process. In early November, the Senate passed the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development FY24 Appropriations bill with strong bipartisan support which included $70 billion for HUD programs – importantly including $31.7 billion for Section 8 rental vouchers. Congress recently passed a stopgap funding bill that keeps all HUD programs funded through mid-January; now that the Senate has passed their Appropriations bill, it now goes to the House for approval or amendments. The House will have 10 days to negotiate and pass a housing appropriations bill upon their return from holiday recess in early January. Housing advocate Kim Johnson from NLIHC lauded CT Rep. DeLauro as a champion of housing policy in the House who has successfully defended HUD funding from drastic cuts this year.
While the proposed Section 8 voucher amounts for FY24 represent an increase over previous years, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released an analysis showing the dire impact of rising rental costs on voucher utilization. CBPP predicts that the Senate Housing Bill, with a 13% increase in funding for HUD programs, will lead to 80,000 fewer households receiving vouchers in the coming year due to rising rental costs. The current House appropriations bill, with only a proposed 10% increase in HUD funding, will lead to 112,000 fewer families being served by vouchers. Budgets for housing programs cannot keep pace with steep rental cost increases here in Connecticut not only with Section 8 voucher recipients but also with our state-funded Rental Assistance Program. Leaders at both the state and federal level must increase funding for voucher programs to maintain service levels year-over-year.
What is HUD Doing in CT?
In 2023, HUD spent nearly $25 billion in 7 program areas across the state, including –
- $700 million for public housing
- $228 million for Section 8 project-based funds
- $220 million in community and development planning and technical assistance funding
Deborah Thrope from NHLP raised awareness around a new HUD program called “Faircloth to RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration).” This program builds upon the highly successful Rental Assistance Demonstration program to convert existing public housing units into subsidized project-based Section 8 housing, preserving affordability while protecting the tenants and developing a financially sustainable model to preserve deeply affordable units for years to come. Through the Faircloth to RAD program, new financing is available to local Public Housing Authorities (PHA) to convert and build out existing public housing units with federal funds. If Connecticut took advantage of this program, 5,026 units could be created in CT across 22 jurisdictions – including 1,600 more units in Hartford and 1,100 in New Haven alone!
How is CT Leading?
There are several fantastic initiatives gathering momentum at the federal level and in other states and localities across the country that have been implemented and championed in Connecticut in recent years. Deborah Thrope (NHLP) highlighted four key policy solutions to protect vulnerable populations that are gaining popularity across the country, including:
- Long-Term Housing Supports (Like Housing Vouchers) – CT is one of only a handful of states with their own state-funded voucher program RAP (Rental Assistance Program) to expand on federal Section 8 vouchers.
- Right to Counsel and Just Cause Eviction Programs – CT created a Right to Counsel Program in January 2022 to provide legal representation to all tenants facing an eviction; early studies indicate this program kept people in their homes, reduced racial disparities in eviction proceedings, and likely saved the state millions of dollars. State advocacy groups, like CT Fair Housing and the Partnership, will be championing Just Cause Eviction programs in the upcoming legislative session.
- Tenant Screening Protections for Rental Debts, Credit Scores, and Prior Evictions – CT’s General Assembly passed new tenant protections during the 2023 legislative session, including capping the allowable fee on tenant screening reports and sealing court eviction records from public view in cases where an eviction was withdraw by the landlord, if the tenant wins their case, or if the case is dismissed by the judge.
- Prefiling and Eviction Diversion Programs with access to Emergency Rental Assistance funds.
A coalition of Senators introduced the Manufactured Housing Tenant’s Bill of Rights Act to protect homeowners of manufactured and mobile housing units whose property is often owned by national conglomerates. In the 2023 state legislative session, CT’s General Assembly united to expand protections for mobile homeowners by giving them the first opportunity to buy their land if the park’s owner decides to sell the property.
Senator Murphy is championing the Fair Housing Improvement Act which would expand housing protections for low-income individuals by designating “source of income” as a protected class – essentially, no longer allowing landlords to discriminate against voucher holders. Connecticut has included source of income protections for housing since 1989.
Senator Blumenthal introduced the Healthy at Home Act to address mold problems in federally assisted rental housing, inspired by vocal housing advocates in Groton, CT, who raised awareness of blind spots in HUD’s housing inspection regimen for health hazards to tenants.
What Comes Next in 2024?
National roundtable experts were united in their perspectives of the current housing situation and what remains to be done in the coming months and years to create more affordability and security. As we look towards 2024, here are some bills to keep an eye on and advocate for at the national level–
- The resolution and passing of the FY24 Housing Appropriations Bill, with expected debate in the House in early January.
- CT Senator Murphy’s “State Walking Tour” Basket of Bills, announced just last week:
- Fair Housing Improvement Act – Would protect users of Section 8 housing vouchers from housing discrimination nationwide.
- Choice in Affordable Housing – Would incentivize landlord participation in the Section 8 voucher program through incentive payments and administrative reform.
- Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act – Would fund 250,000 new long-term vouchers for households with young children to improve intergenerational economic mobility.
- Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) Act – Would encourage local governments to adopt more inclusionary land use policies.
- Housing Alignment and Coordination of Critical and Effective Supportive Health Services (ACCESS) Act – Would create more coordination between federal agencies to support Medicare beneficiaries in accessing housing supports and services.
- CT Representative DeLauro’s recently-announced Eviction Prevention Act – Would expand on CT’s successful Right to Counsel program by creating a national-level grant program with federal financial support.
- The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act – Would increase housing supply by incentivizing and funding the construction of 2 million homes over 10 years; this bill has strong bipartisan support with over 200 bill cosponsors in the House and 29 bill cosponsors in the Senate.
You can support these national efforts by reaching out to your representatives and offering your strong support for positive changes in housing policy. Nationally, there is strong support from both sides of the aisle for housing reform to address the current housing crisis. For our New Year’s wish, we expect this momentum – with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck – will lead to measurable progress at the state and national level in 2024.