ASSET MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 09, 2008)
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Mr. SIRES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am very happy to be here today discussing my bill to help public housing authorities across the Nation. Let me start by thanking Chairman Barney Frank for his support on this bill and his leadership in the Financial Service Committee. Without his dedication to this issue, we would not be considering this bill today.
Let me start by explaining why I introduced this bill. Shortly after I was sworn in, I received a letter from the
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Jersey City Housing Authority in my district. They told me they had to lay off 34 employees because of asset management. When I looked into this, I learned that Jersey City was not unique. Over 800 public housing authorities had their operating budgets cut because of the way asset management was implemented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At the same time, the Department limited the amount of flexibility given to public housing authorities to make ends meet. I knew something had to be done.
With the support of Chairman Frank, Congressman Meek, and others, I introduced H.R. 6216, the Asset Management Improvement Act of 2008. You will note that the title indicates that the bill improves asset management; it does not put an end to asset management. That is because I feel strongly that the goals of asset management are worthwhile.
By making public housing authorities run more efficiently, asset management has the potential to improve the lives of all those who live in public housing in this country.
My bill simply makes four improvements to the asset management rule and it alters the management of public housing in other aspects. First, it requires new negotiations to establish a reasonable management fee and allows public housing authorities to revert back to the old funding mechanism until final implementation of asset management on January 1, 2011. Congress has previously acted to require this, but HUD failed to act. This bill sets HUD straight.
Second, my bill reaffirms current law by allowing public housing authorities to transfer funds between their operating fund and their capital fund. This provision prevents the Department from prohibiting such transfers. This flexibility is vital to agencies, particularly since the housing program is underfunded. Housing authorities know best where they need funding, not Washington.
There is wide agreement on this provision. In fact, this provision was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008. That provision, however, is only valid for 1 year. My bill will make this change permanent.
Third, my bill decreases the exemption threshold from small to medium-sized public housing authorities. The Department recognized that small authorities with fewer than 250 units of housing would not benefit from the benefits of asset management, and so they are exempted. My bill simply raises this threshold to 500 units.
Again, there is little disagreement on raising the threshold. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008 raised the exemption threshold to 400. My bill goes a little further; to 500 units. The impact of this change would only affect 110 public housing authorities, some of whom may not opt out of asset management because they think it makes good sense. Even with this change, over two-thirds of all public housing units will still be covered by the asset management rules.
Third, my bill restates current law in terms of tenant participation. It simply says tenants should be allowed to participate in the decision affecting their homes. It prohibits the Department from altering tenant participation rights and it encourages public housing authorities to include tenants in discussions about asset management that directly affects their home.
The bill alters public housing management in a few other ways. First, it restates current law that undocumented immigrants are ineligible for public housing assistance. It includes language that Congresswoman Bachmann brought to our attention on gun rules. In fact, we have incorporated her language into the bill.
Public housing authorities cannot require gun registration or prohibit gun ownership if local laws do not restrict ownership. Public housing authorities, as a whole, feel this is a reasonable requirement. Additionally, this bill allows public housing authorities to evict tenants who use an illegal weapon while on public housing property. This text was added by Representatives Maloney and Boren, recognizing that tenants do not have a right to use illegal weapons in public housing.
Together, these changes make several improvements to the management of public housing. It will improve the lives of all the residents.
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Mr. SIRES. Let me end with this: My office has taken calls from public housing authorities across the Nation. Small, large, urban and rural housing authorities support this bill, and I hope that Members will support this bill. Please make a difference for public housing residents and public housing authorities by easing their regulatory burden. Vote ``yes'' on H.R. 6216.
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