Just before the third Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government was set to expire on February 9th, Congress passed a deal the night before that would raise the spending caps for both defense and non-defense spending by $300 billion over two years, raise the federal debt limit, and continue funding the government with a fourth CR through March 23rd. Between now and March 23rd, Congress is currently working on an Omnibus bill that will finalize the fiscal year 18 budget.
The bipartisan deal raised spending for both defense and non-defense programs over the current and next budget cycle, fiscal year 18 and 19. This was an important step that needed to happen before Congress could finalize the fiscal year 18 budget because appropriators had to know the top-line spending number to determine funding amounts for all programs. As a result of the budget cap being lifted for non-defense, or domestic, spending, GRA is hopeful that our legislative priorities—SHOP, HOME, CDBG, Section 4, national service, and the USDA 502 loan program—will receive level funding in the final fiscal year 18 budget. However, we won’t know that for sure until Congress releases the omnibus measure they are currently working on next month.
The budget deal also provides relief as we move into the fiscal year 19 appropriations process now that we know that Congress will develop its appropriations bills without any sequestration cuts. This will give our upcoming advocacy efforts to protect funding for our legislative priorities this year some breathing room, and even allow us to advocate for additional funding.
Finally, the budget deal includes additional disaster relief funding in response to the 2017 disasters for Texas, Florida, California, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Of note for Habitat, the bill included funding for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Response (CDBG-DR) program, which is the main vehicle used to address the long-term housing recovery needs of the impacted communities.
The bill provides $28 billion in CDBG-DR funding. Of this amount, up to $16 billion is slated to address unmet needs, including $11 billion that will be allocated to state and local governments impacted by Hurricane Maria, with $2 billion of that set aside for rebuilding the electrical grids in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The remaining $12 billion is set aside for mitigation projects. Up to $15 million of CDBG-DR funds can be used to provide capacity building and technical assistance.
Another successful Habitat on the Hill wrapped up this month, and GRA was grateful for the 350 passionate and enthusiastic Habitat representatives that came to DC to learn about our advocacy work, and meet with their members of Congress about our legislative priorities.
Conference attendees conducted over 400 Congressional meetings in just five hours, and based on the feedback GRA received, the meetings gave affiliates a great opportunity to educate Congressional offices about Habitat’s role in addressing the housing affordability challenges facing our communities, and make the case for why the Habitat on the Hill legislative priorities—HOME, SHOP, national service, and the USDA 502 loan program—should be robustly funded in the fiscal year 19 budget.
In addition, throughout the conference attendees were able to learn about our forthcoming national advocacy campaign focused on affordability, hear from Judy Woodruff and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and get updates from three federal agency staff about HOME, national service, and the USDA 502 loan program.
We look forward to welcoming you back to DC for next year’s Habitat on the Hill taking place February 12-14, 2019.
The day before Habitat on the Hill began, on February 12th, the President released his fiscal year 19 budget request, which officially kicks off the next appropriations process. As suspected, every single federal program the U.S. Habitat network uses and benefits from was severely cut or eliminated in the budget request. This includes CDBG, HOME, SHOP, Section 4, the CDFI fund which oversees the New Market Tax Credit, the Section 502 and 504 programs at USDA, and the entire Corporation for National and Community Service agency, which oversees the AmeriCorps program.
It’s important to keep in mind that the budget request is simply a blueprint of the Administration’s priorities and proposed funding levels for every federal program, and Congress will ultimately make the final funding decisions in the fiscal year 19 budget.
As we look toward fiscal year 19, GRA intends to advocate that our federal programs not just receive level funding, but instead because of the two year budget deal passed by Congress last month and the value these programs bring to communities, that they should receive a boost in funding.
To give you an idea of what that looks like, the following will be Habitat’s fiscal year 19 appropriations advocacy asks:
SHOP: Currently funded at $10 million; fiscal year 19 ask: $15 million
HOME: Currently funded at $950 million; fiscal year 19 ask: $1.2 billion
USDA 502 loan program: Currently funded at $1 billion; fiscal year 19 ask: $1.2 billion
CDBG: Currently funded at $3 billion; fiscal year 19 ask: $3.3 billion
National service: CNCS currently funded at $1 billion; fiscal year 19 ask: $1.1 billion
Section 4: Currently funded at $35 million; fiscal year 19 ask: $40 million
Stay tuned to learn about a variety of ways that you can advocate for the funding of these programs in the fiscal year 19 budget through posting social media, mailing postcards, participating in local Congressional meetings, inviting your legislators to the build site, and emailing your legislators through online action alerts.
Barbara Stewart has been confirmed by the Senate to be the next Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Since 2010, Ms. Stewart has been a consultant helping nonprofits improve their government relations strategies, with the aim of expanding nonprofit capacity. Ms. Stewart retired from JPMorgan Chase as senior vice president in the firm’s Global Government Relations Group, where she was responsible for strategy development, personnel, budget and operations management. Previously, she served in policy and management roles for an Illinois Governor and two Lt. Governors, and led the Chicago public affairs practice of Fleishman-Hillard. She also co-founded the Bowe-Stewart Foundation, which is a family foundation that gives grants to nonprofits doing work for low-income families in Chicago and Baltimore, particularly focusing on educational opportunity.
Habitat looks forward to engaging with Ms. Stewart and supporting her leadership role as she takes the helm of CNCS to strengthen and expand national service opportunities.
Sign-on letter urging maximum funding for housing programs
The Campaign for Housing and Community Development (CHCDF) coalition, of which HFHI is a member, is circulating a sign-on letter advocating that Congress ensures that affordable housing and community development programs receive the highest amount of funding possible.
Each year, the appropriations cycle gets kicked off when the Senate and House Appropriations Committees set the 302b allocation for all 12 appropriations sub-committees, which dictates the top line spending number for each sub-committee’s bill. For Habitat, our priority subcommittee is Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) which sets spending levels for all housing and transportation programs, including Habitat’s priority programs at HUD.
It is advantageous that the T-HUD appropriations subcommittee receive the highest 302b allocation possible for fiscal year 19 because it will improve the chance that HUD programs receive stronger funding.
The Homeownership Collaborative, a coalition of real estate trade associations and nonprofit housing counseling providers, yesterday released its first report on steps that can be taken to increase use of homeownership education and housing counseling services available nationwide.
The Collaborative involved lenders, real estate agents and housing counselors who sat down together in four cities to increase homeownership opportunities in their markets.
The report, Creating Channels of Opportunity in Diverse & Emerging Homebuying Markets, reports back on the combined efforts of these organizations to host partnerships in local housing markets aimed at increasing homeownership opportunities by working with HUD-approved housing counseling agencies, as well as lessons learned to date.
The following state legislatures are in regular session as of this week: Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Arizona,California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas,Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Louisiana is expected to convene on March 12.
The following states are expected to adjourn on the dates provided: Georgia (March 2); Utah and Washington(March 8); Florida, Oregon and Wyoming (March 9) and Virginia and West Virginia (March 10).
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh worked in partnership with the Pittsburgh United coalition on a campaign in 2017 to create a sustainable funding strategy for the city of Pittsburgh's new Housing Trust Fund which was successfully enacted in 2016. Through direct advocacy with legislators, social media awareness raising, and public rallies, housing advocates were successfully convinced city council members to designate a funding source.
On December 19, 2017 Pittsburgh's city council passed a bill which would fund the new "Housing Opportunity Fund" at $10 million per year through a re-allocation of city funds and an increase in the realty transfer tax of 0.5% for 2018 and 2019 and then an increase of another 0.5 % starting in 2020. While just a beginning, this new resource for affordable housing preservation and development will enable organizations like Habitat for Humanity to assist more of the 23,000 individuals in Pittsburgh currently paying over half of their income in housing costs.
In February, Habitat for Humanity of Iowa, Habitat for Humanity of Tennessee and Habitat for Humanity ofColorado held state advocacy days to influence their state legislators to support a variety of affordable housing programs and policies. Both Habitat Iowa and Habitat Colorado are championing state tax legislation to increase funding for affordable homeownership. Affiliate staff, volunteers, and homeowners participated in these events and visited hundreds of state legislators.