The Ending Homelessness Act (H.R. 1856, S. 2613) would provide a comprehensive plan to ensure that every person experiencing homelessness in America has a place to call home. The bill would appropriate $13.3 billion in mandatory emergency relief funding over 5 years to several critical federal housing programs and initiatives, providing the resources that these programs need to effectively address the homelessness crisis in America. If enacted, this bill is estimated to fund the creation of 410,000 new units of housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Annual funding for this bill would include:
• $1 billion for new homeless assistance projects, with 75 percent to be spent on permanent supportive housing, distributed to communities by formula, and renewed out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) regular Continuum of Care (CoC) homeless assistance program competition (which would require additional appropriations each year).
• $500 million for new incremental Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8) for people who are homeless, distributed to communities according to need and renewed out of regular Housing Choice Voucher appropriations.
• $100 million for new outreach and service coordination grants, awarded competitively. Since these activities are eligible for HUD CoC funding, renewals could be done through the regular CoC competition, subject to additional appropriations.
• $1 billion in incremental funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to develop housing, with homeless people prioritized for the first five years.
• $50 million in incremental rental assistance funding to support National Housing Trust developments.
The bill would also permanently authorize HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants account, and permanently eliminate the sunset clause for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
An important aspect is that this bill’s funds would be provided through “mandatory” spending rather than through the “discretionary” funding handled by the Appropriations Committees. Using discretionary spending is one reason why HUD’s programs to house people with the lowest incomes have been inadequately funded for more than about three-quarters of eligible people. This bill can open a discussion about whether federal funding for housing should be provided to all eligible people through the mandatory spending process (as is the case with major federal programs providing food, medical care, and income for retirement).
H.R. 1856 was marked up by the House Financial Services Committee on March 28, 2019, and it was approved by a vote of 32-26. The legislation could be taken up by the entire House. No action has been taken on S. 2613.
The Alliance asks activists to urge Representatives to vote for H.R. 1856 if it is considered on the floor and Senators to cosponsor S. 2613.
How did Representatives on the House Financial Services Committee vote on H.R. 1856?