WASHINGTON -- The Senate Banking Committee overwhelmingly approved a comprehensive housing reauthorization bill yesterday that in many respects follows the House version passed last week.
The committee voted 15 to 3.
Congress must pass a housing reauthorization bill by Sept. 30 to reauthorize dozens of federal housing programs for the new fiscal year.
One of the major provisions in the legislation would consolidate seven homeless assistance programs into one, thus improving the "delivery of homeless assistance by providing a predictable source of dollars to states and localities," Senate Banking Committee Chairman Donald W. Riegle, D-Mich., said at the markup yesterday.
The Senate committee's bill also would reauthorize the existing HOME program for two years, approving $2 billion for fiscal 1995 and $2.3 billion for fiscal 1996. The House bill authorizes $1.75 billion for fiscal 1995 and $2 billion for fiscal 1996.
Separately, a new HOME loan guarantee program allowing states and localities to receive more money upfront for projects would be created under the Senate legislation. The bill authorizes $1 billion for fiscal 1995.
Municipalities would be allowed to issue taxable bonds at up to five times the most recent year's federal allocation, with the subsequent year's allocation being used to retire the debt. The federal government would guarantee repayment of the debt should the loan go into default.
Under both the Senate and House versions of the bill, the multifamily risk-sharing program would be extended, and a new program for single-family risk sharing would be created. Risk sharing is designed to test the idea of permitting state and local housing authorities to help the Federal Housing Administration insure multifamily and single-family homes.
Among other provisions, the Senate bill would revamp the Section 8 rent subsidy program in light of the anticipated expiration of existing Section 8 contracts. The legislation protects current tenants and attempts to entice owners to continue to participate in the program.
The Senate bill now goes to the floor for consideration, but the "biggest question is when," said John Murphy, executive director of the Association of Local Housing Finance Agents. The Senate has a tight schedule and the committee leadership wants to get the bill through quickly with limited debate, Murphy said.
The full House is expected to consider its version shortly after the July recess. House and Senate committee members hope to complete a conference on the bill by August but may not meet that deadline, thus pushing the bill back to September, Murphy said. But at any rate, the bill is expected to pass Congress without much controversy, he said.