WASHINGTON The House approved legislation Friday that would reauthorize dozens of federal housing programs set to expire Sept. 30, including several that are important to the municipal market.
The measure, which passed by a vote of 345 to 36, must now be reconciled with the Senate's version. That bill has been passed by the Senate Banking Committee and is expected to be voted on by the full Senate before Congress adjourns for its summer recess in mid-August.
The House bill would set a $1.7 billion ceiling for the HOME program in fiscal 1995 and one of $2 billion in 1996. The $1.7 billion is $75 million less than the level approved by the House Banking Committee and was trimmed back on the House floor to bring the cost of the overall bill in line with legislation approved by the housing subcommittee several weeks ago, aides said.
The ceiling set by the House for the HOME program is below the Senate-approved $2 billion for fiscal 1995 and $2.3 billion for 1996.
The House also authorized the Community Development Block Grant program to receive up to $4.4 billion in 1995 and $4.5 billion in 1996 under the bill. The Senate version authorizes the same $4.4 billion next year, but $4.53 billion in fiscal 1996.
Among its other provisions, the House bill would extend for two years a pilot program known as risk sharing, which is designed to test the idea of permitting state and local housing agencies to help HUD's Federal Housing Administration insure multifamily loans.
Officials of the Housing and Urban Development Department have said that they hope the program will revive the FHA's moribund insurance program. If successful, the program could spark a revival in the issuance of tax-exempt multifamily housing bonds, lobbyists say. The lobbyists are pushing for the risk-sharing program to be made permanent.
The bill would also revamp the Section 8 rent subsidy program to give participating multifamily project owners a more reliable stream of payments and thus a better credit rating on their tax-exempt debt.
Under current law, most rent subsidies are issued to tenants, with a smaller portion going directly to the housing projects themselves. The House bill would permit a greater portion of the available subsidy to be project-based.
Rating agency officials have said that the change would boost an owner's credit rating because project-based assistance strengthens Income streams.
Another provision in the House bill would raise the size of multifamily mortgages that the FHA could insure in cities with high housing costs, enabling the cities to move forward with bond-financed projects that have been stalled by the limit. The provision would primarily benefit New York City and San Francisco, housing industry officials say.