On February 13, the U.S. House Financial Services Committee introduced a series of four draft bills aimed at addressing homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing. If enacted, the four bills would make new investments in federal housing programs, expand eligibility for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services and promote coordination of homelessness programs across federal agencies.
The committee’s draft legislation could bolster county efforts around addressing homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing in our communities. Counties play a central role in ensuring local housing supply and affordability, and additional federal resources for programs such as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) could help counties reach more residents who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
The proposed bills will be subject to a vote by the full House Financial Services Committee and, if approved, will move to the full House for a vote. At this point, companion legislation has not been introduced in the U.S. Senate. NACo will continue to monitor legislative developments and work to ensure counties have the resources needed to effectively address housing and homelessness in our communities.
The four draft bills introduced are highlighted below:
- The Ending Homelessness Act of 2019 (H.R. __, bill not yet numbered) would provide $13.27 billion over five years to several critical federal housing programs and initiatives, including funding for new units of affordable housing, vouchers, case management and technical assistance. The bill would also provide $1 billion annually to the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and $50 million each year for rental assistance in conjunction with HTF housing.
- The Homes for Our Heroes Act of 2019 (H.R. __, discussion draft) would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide more detailed reporting on HUD-VASH programs. The bill would also require HUD and the VA to conduct a joint study to identify barriers to the effective use of HUD-VASH vouchers in high-cost areas.
- The Veteran Housing Opportunity and Unemployment Support Extension (Veteran HOUSE) Act of 2019 (H.R. __, discussion draft) would align eligibility for HUD-VASH programs with other homelessness services offered through the VA. Additionally, the bill would expand eligibility for VA case management resources and HUD housing vouchers under the HUD-VASH program.
- The Working Together to End Homelessness Act of 2019 (H.R. __, discussion draft) would permanently reauthorize the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across relevant federal agencies.