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Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 3521, the Public Housing Asset Management Improvement Act of 2007.
I commend Chairman Frank and co mmend Chairwoman Waters and my colleague from New Jersey, Congressman Albio Sires, for bringing to the floor this very important legislation. This is the most significant administrative transformation, Mr. Chairman, in 30 years dealing with all of the public housing authorities throughout the United States.
This bill, developed with the input of public housing agencies, administrators and tenants, is a commonsense measure that provides flexibility to the Nation's public housing authorities as they transition to asset management.
I must say to my friend from Illinois, the points that you bring up are salient, but it doesn't work here, and I will tell you why. H.R. 3521 was included as part of H.R. 2764, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, which the President signed on December 26, 2007. It's already law.
Specifically, the Consolidated Appropriations Act included the provision to allow flexible funding between the capital and operating funds. It also expanded the exemption from im plementing asset management from public housing authorities with less than 250 units to public housing authorities with less than 400 units. This legislation that is before us today increases that threshold to 500 units. So what we are taking is something already in the law and expanding it.
H.R. 3521 would also be permanent whereas the Consolidated Appropriations Act would only put provisions in place for the year 2008. I ask that that be considered, and I think it is a very important part of what we a re debating today.
Asset management is an efficient administrative style that allows public housing authorities to manage each individual housing development on a project-level basis as opposed to managing developments on an agency-wide basis.
While most stakeholders support the idea of asset management, they believe that HUD has implemented its inflexibility. For example, HUD has mandated that public housing authorities demonstrate compliance. So this is not a willy-nilly situation here. Thi s is something you have to comply to the law. New rules will be established by 2011, which the PHAs believe is too soon. You have to get these public housing authorities that have been operating, many of them for 30 years, the flexibility for compliance. And HUD is overseeing them. You act as if there is no one who is auditing the books.
We need time to issue timely and complete guidance on these new regulations causing some PHAs to lose funding and staff. I don't think any of us want that.
During t his time of declining resources for public housing, when is the last time we built public housing? When is the last time we built public housing for seniors at a time when we know what is going on out there with people losing homes? When is the last time we have provided public housing?
So during this time of declining resources for public housing, it is imperative that we provide them with the flexibility they need to use their funds as they see fit. This legislation requires new negotiated rulemaking to begin in 2009 to ensure that housing authorities are funded according to an accurate funding formula and allows the public housing authorities the flexibility to move small amounts of funding from capital to operating funds.
Also, this legislation exempts small public housing authorities from asset management, as they generally will see no economic or efficiency improvements from its implementation and ensure that the PHAs involve tenants in every decision.
Mr. Chairman, this bill makes real prac tical changes that will truly benefit our public housing agencies as they implement asset management. I urge my colleagues to support its passage, and I commend the sponsors of this legislation.
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