USA Tenants Win Victories in 2008 Housing Budget!
Now that the dust has cleared on the 2008 housing budget for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), its clear that the National Alliance of HUD Tenants in the USA and its allies have won some major victories! But USA tenants have more work to do to avoid mass displacement and loss of housing in 2008.
Good News and Bad News
The good news is that Congress and the President have approved the FY 08 HUD budget with $6.15 billion for project-based Section 8—about $600 million more than what Bush sought in his budget request--with no major cuts to other HUD programs! (For more information on the final HUD budget overall, see the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities website, www.cbpp.org ). This was a real victory for tenants and allies in the housing advocacy movement.
The final budget also includes several provisions sought by NAHT that will help preserve HUD multifamily housing: 1) extension of the Schumer amendment, requiring HUD to provide project-based Section 8 with all dispositions and foreclosures; 2) closing loopholes to limit HUD’s strategy of terminating Section 8 contracts to avoid foreclosure; 3) restoration of HUD’s ability to engage in “below market sales” to local governments and nonprofits they select in cases of HUD becoming owner through foreclosure; 4) clarifying that city/nonprofit purchasers of HUD buildings at foreclosure can Mark Up to Market/Budget; 5) strengthening tenant consultation if Section 8 contracts are to be transferred and requiring one for one replacement and new units to be available before tenants are relocated.
The bad news is that there is still a $1.9 billion shortfall in the project-based Section 8 account. And HUD has acknowledged that there are NO protections for tenants whatsoever (no vouchers, no notice) if, as now seems likely, HUD runs out of funds for Section 8 contracts during the year.
Gearing Up for 2008 Save Our Homes Campaign
So NAHT and its allies will need to mount a major campaign early in 2008 for an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation of $1.9 billion for project-based Section 8, plus passage of an amendment to the Enhanced Voucher program to require EVs in the event that HUD terminates a contract due to lack of funds.
We have also learned that the Preservation bill being drafted by the House Financial Services Committee will NOT include a National Right to Purchase, but that Chairman Frank will allow an amendment for the Right to Purchase from Committee members to be considered at mark-up.
NAHT’s local affiliates have agreed to mount a Save Our Homes campaign to fight for full funding for Section 8 and a Right to Purchase for at-risk buildings, and to use the January 26 Day of Action called by the World Social Forum Committee, Habitat International Coalition, and International Alliance of Inhabitants as one focus. People organizing an event on or before that date can link it to the global websites tracking local actions, at www.hic-net and www.wssf.org
The Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants in Boston has already mobilized tenants for a rally and press conference, held on November 21. Attached are newsclips from the Boston Globe and Boston Banner covering this event. The Portland (Maine) Tenants Union has also held a press conference, which received local TV coverage. PTU has prepared some excellent background materials and sample press release which is available on their website, www.portlandtenants.org .
In addition, NAHT affiliates in states with Republican Senators (ME, MN, CO, NC, OR, OH, PA, TX) have been asked to approach their Senators to see if they would initiate a Republican Senate sign-on letter to their colleagues, urging support for full funding for Section 8. Already, the Portland Tenants Union has met with staffers from Sen. Collins and Snowe (R-ME), who are reportedly considering initiating a letter (focus now should be on an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation). NAHT affiliates in Chicago have also met with staff to Sen. Durbin (D-IL), who is both a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and second ranking Democrat in the Senate, asking his support for full Section 8 funding. Now that the FY 08 budget has passed, tenants are redoubling their efforts for an Emergency Supplemental Appropriation in January.