House Bill Extends Relief for 2005 Hurricane Victims
By a vote of 302 to 125, the House on March 21 passed H.R. 1227, the “Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act,” legislation that would help provide affordable housing for low-income residents displaced by the hurricanes that hit the area in 2005.
Prior to consideration of the bill, NAHB sent a letter to the full committee highlighting the association’s support for language extending the Disaster Voucher Program until Jan. 1, 2008. Due to the magnitude of the destruction caused by the hurricanes, which decimated entire communities, many families have not yet found permanent housing or jobs and continue to need this vital assistance.
NAHB also indicated support for provisions in the bill that would prevent the expiration or termination of housing assistance payment contracts for multifamily housing properties assisted under Sections 8, 202, 811 and 236 that were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The bill directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to promptly review and approve all feasible proposals made by owners of these properties to resume the assistance after the damage has been repaired, or, in the case of interest reduction payments, transfer the remaining budget authority to another multifamily housing project.
Alternatively, the housing assistance would be transferred to another appropriate and habitable project or a project that will be constructed, with the same or a different owner. In the case of interest reduction payments contracts, any remaining budget authority could be used to reduce financing costs for units in other habitable projects that don’t have assistance.
An amendment offered by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) and adopted by the House extends the deadline for cutting off rental housing assistance under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Section 408 program until the end of this year. After that date, eligible families would receive Section 8 vouchers from HUD. This provision affects about 37,000 families. In addition, the Disaster Voucher Program, administered by HUD and expiring in September, would be extended for an additional three months.
The bill also includes provisions to reimburse communities and landlords that were generous in providing assistance to hurricane-affected families. Specifically, localities that used their own Community Development Block Grant funds to provide rental assistance to affected families will be reimbursed for those costs. Also, landlords who participated in FEMA’s Section 403 program would be reimbursed for the financial losses they suffered when FEMA broke private lease agreements co-signed by localities.
At this time, Senate action on a companion bill is uncertain. After passage of the House bill, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) indicated that he was assessing the best way to address the issue. NAHB will continue to closely follow legislative movements in the Senate.
To read the legislation, click here and enter H.R. 1227 in the box at the center of the page.
For more information, e-mail Scott Meyer at NAHB or call him at 800-368-5242 x8144.