STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - May 22, 2007)
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By Mr. KOHL (for himself and Ms. Snowe):
S. 1450. A bill to authorize appropriations for the Housing Assistance Council; to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Housing Assistance Council Authorization Act. This legislation will authorize appropriations for the Housing Assistance Council, HAC, which has been committed to developing affordable housing in rural communities for over 35 years.
The bill provides $10 million for HAC in fiscal year 2008 and then $15 million in fiscal year 2009-2014. In the past, the Council has received appropriations from the Self Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program. The funding has helped HAC provide loans to 1,875 organizations across the country, raise and distribute over $5 million in capacity building grants and hold regional training workshops. These critical services help local organizations, rural communities and cities develop safe and affordable housing.
Throughout the country, approximately one-fifth of the Nation's population lives in rural communities. About 7.5 million of the rural population is living in poverty and 2.5 million of them are children. Nearly 3.6 million rural households pay more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs. While housing costs are generally lower in rural counties, wages are dramatically outpaced by the cost of housing. Additionally, the housing conditions are often substandard and there are many families doubled up due to lack of housing. Rural areas lack both affordable rental units and homeownership opportunities needed to serve the population.
There are several Federal programs that are aimed at developing affordable housing and economic opportunities in rural communities in both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture. However, over the past 6 years, funding for these programs has been reduced by 20 percent. For the fiscal year 2008 budget, the administration proposed to eliminate $1.3 billion in rural housing assistance. In many regions Federal funding might be the only assistance available for housing and economic development. The Housing Assistance Council is yet another tool that rural communities can utilize when trying to develop affordable housing.
In Wisconsin, HAC has provided close to $5.2 million in grants and loans to 17 nonprofit housing organizations and helped develop 820 units of housing. Specifically, since 1972 the Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corporation has partnered with the Housing Assistance Council to develop 268 units of self-help housing. The presence of the Council in Wisconsin has made a huge impact on rural housing development in Wisconsin and other rural communities across the country.
I am very honored to work with Senator Snowe this legislation. Its passage will allow every State to better serve the needs of the people living in rural areas. I look forward to Working with my colleagues to ensure the adoption of this bill.