WASHINGTON - The Senate passed legislation yesterday that virtually assures the HOME housing affordability program in 1994 will gain 25% more in federal funds than the $1 billion it received this year.

The Senate's bill would give the HOME program $1.275 billion in fiscal 1994, and a House bill passed June 29 would fund the program at a level of $1.25 billion. Housing lobbyists said the final bill that emerges from a House-Senate conference in the next few weeks should allot the program no less than $1.25 billion.

"We seem assured of getting 25% more than we got last year," said John T. McEvoy, the executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

"We're very pleased that [the Senate bill], like the House version, recognizes that this is a viable program, and is willing to stand behind HOME with additional funding," said John C. Murphy, the executive director of the Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies.

The HOME program, created by a 1990 law, requires the federal government to match contributions that state and local governments make to low-income rental and home ownership projects.

Contributions that are eligible for federal matching funds include a state or locality's general obligation housing bonds as well as a portion of its multifamily housing and mortgage revenue bond issues.

The additional $25 million in the Senate's bill was included to rectify a mistake the federal government made in allocating HOME funds last year, McEvoy said.

The law generally requires that states and localities participating in HOME receive no less than $500,000 in a given year. Also, a participating state where no localities are receiving money is entitled to an additional $500,000. That extra allotment also applies to the District of Columbia.

In 1993, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development's funding was cut to $1 billion, Congress ordered HUD not to reduce those minimum allocations.

But for the District of Columbia and for six states without participating local jurisdictions, the extra $500,000 they were entitled to was cut to $335,000 by HUD. McEvoy said HUD admitted its mistake earlier this year, but declined to correct it. The extra money in the Senate bill is designed to make up for what those areas lost last year, McEvoy said.

The appropriations bill passed by the Senate also includes $4.4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program in fiscal 1994. Lobbyists said they were pleased because that figure is $200 million more than the level in the House bill, and $400 million more than the fiscal 1993 appropriation of $4 billion.

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