Congress Moves Forward on Transportation, Housing Spending

Both the House and the Senate made significant progress during the past several weeks in finalizing FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending. The Senate voted to approve its bill 89-8 on May 19, and the House Appropriations Committee passed its bill unanimously on May 24.

Senate

The Senate vote followed a week of floor debate on the bill and amendments — in all, 46 amendments were approved, largely through en bloc votes without lengthy formal debate, a strategy to move quickly through non-controversial proposals.

One of the amendments approved en bloc was proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and allows communities that participate in the HOME program to maintain access to federal funds that would otherwise expire under HUD’s 24-month commitment timeline. Under current law, participating jurisdictions have 24 months to commit HOME funds to specific projects. If a jurisdiction does not commit its funds within 24 months, the funds revert back to HUD. Many communities have lost HOME funding as a result of the current law.

Immediately prior to final passage of the bill, two amendments on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing were debated: one proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to prevent funding for implementation of the rule and another by THUD Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to prohibit HUD from intervening in local zoning decisions. The Collins-Reed amendment, seen as an alternative to the Lee amendment, was approved 89-9. The Lee amendment was tabled, a signal that it could be brought up again in the future in the Senate. 

House

While the Senate debated its THUD bill on the floor, the House Appropriations THUD Subcommittee unveiled its bill and passed it unanimously without amendment through the subcommittee. Last week, the full Appropriations Committee considered the bill, approving it after debate on several housing and transportation-related amendments, though only a manager’s amendment making technical changes to the bill was ultimately approved.

The House THUD bill received a robust $48.2 billion allocation, which is $1.7 billion higher than the Senate allocation. However, because of a difference in accounting tactics, the Senate bill provides higher funding levels for most transportation, housing, and community and development programs than the House bill, the notable exceptions being the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and Captial Investment Grants (New Starts). 

The House bill provides:

  • CDBG: $3 billion, equal to both current funding levels and the Senate bill
  • TIGER: $450 million, a $50 million cut from current levels and $75 million lower than the Senate bill
  • HOME: $950 million, equal to both current funding levels and the Senate bill
  • Choice Neighborhoods Initiative: $100 million, $25 million less than current funding levels and is $20 million more than the Senate bill
  • Capital Investment Grants (New Starts): $2.5 billion, $400 million more than current funding levels and $200 million more than the Senate bill

The House could consider its THUD bill on the floor following the Memorial Day recess, though the failure of the Energy and Water spending bill due to a controversial amendment complicated the appropriations process in the House. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Ohio) signaled a willingness during the recess to limit amendments allowed to be considered with spending bills in order to move forward with more bills, increasing the changes that THUD could be finalized.

About the Author

Tess Hembree is the policy manager at Advocacy Associates.

Top image: Rooftop drawing is in the public domain.


June 6, 2016

By Tess Hembree