Mr. Secretary, it is a pleasure to have you before us today.
While the recession technically ended almost three years ago, hundreds of thousands of families continue to struggle with the burden of underwater mortgages in the face of institutional intransigence. As the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, you have embraced the challenges and personally accepted the responsibility of helping families facing foreclosure, of providing housing security to families experiencing economic insecurity, and in making capital investments in housing infrastructure that creates jobs. This is an incredibly difficult undertaking and I greatly admire your dogged persistence.
I am particularly pleased to see that your fiscal year 2013 budget request continues to embrace the VASH homeless veterans program by providing $75 million for an additional 10,000 vouchers. This funding is needed as veterans are over 50% more likely than the average American to become homeless and already over 11,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have found themselves on the streets. More generally, the budget also requests $2.2 billion for the Homeless Assistance Grants program in order to address the broader homeless population. The Administration has made reducing homelessness a priority and this robust request reinforces that commitment.
In addition, I am pleased to see that the Fiscal Year 2013 budget continues HUD's commitment to the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Through this initiative, HUD has been a leader in promoting inter agency cooperation and in breaking down the stovepipes that stifle innovative planning. Like you, I strongly believe that federal dollars are most efficiently utilized when local communities have the resources and flexibility to determine what the right investments mix of housing, transportation and infrastructure are within their town in order to foster job growth.
I also look forward to hearing more about your proposal to combine the public housing capital and operating accounts and how it will strengthen PHAs by modernizing asset management practices and improving their ability to maintain, operate and expand housing services efficiently.
While there are many aspects of your budget request that I appreciate, I must express concern about your proposal to fund two-thirds of the Project-Based Section 8 contracts for less than a full year. We experienced this with the previous Administration and I am interested to better understand what lessons you learned from the previous Administration's mistakes and how you plan to ensure that tenants are held harmless by the proposal.
Lastly, in past years I have expressed concerns about the wide discrepancy between HUD and CBO's FHA receipt projections and the constraints it puts on this Subcommittee. I am pleased to see that this year CBO's estimates were $1.7 billion higher than HUD's, and it should strengthen our ability to provide robust resources for HUD's programs.
Mr. Secretary, in conclusion, while I wish the current fiscal environment would allow you to request higher capital funding levels, I do believe the request allows HUD to contribute to our economic recovery. I greatly appreciate your leadership over the past three years and am committed to working with you towards our shared goal of strengthening HUD's ability to provide affordable housing.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back.