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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. OLVER. The amendment that has been offered removes a 3 percent increase in the administrative account for the Office of Public and Indian Housing. I rise to oppose the amendment.

In this instance, the cuts in the Office of Public and Indian Housing cover a number of things, including the VASH program. We're adding $75 million for additional VASH vouchers--veterans' homelessness vouchers--and that has to be administered. The arbitrary $6.5 million simply does not help with that effort. It hurts that effort.

The Office also implements the operating and capital funds for public housing and the Native American housing grants. All of these require either layoffs, removal of people, because the salaries and expenses of the Office are subject to normal increases, small increases year by year for salaries for people in those places, and they are clearly going to end up having to reduce the number of personnel while they're administering more, and particularly the housing and the homeless program for veterans.

So on that basis, I think this is an unwise reduction and one that is unjustified as well as unwise, and I would urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. This amendment again, as the gentleman has said, is an amendment that would freeze at the level of the 2012 funding here for salaries and expenses of the Office of Community Planning and Development.

Now, this office, it turns out, administers and implements the CDBG program, which in the bill, as presented by my chairman, is increased substantially--several hundred million dollars in the CDBG program--and increases the funding for the HOME program, which had been held at a much lower level in last year's program. In both of those cases, they were considerably lower.

And just last night, we added an amendment to increase the funding for HPWA, Helping Persons With AIDS, one of those vulnerable populations that we have, and our housing programs--as with veterans who are homeless, others who are homeless, those who are vulnerable such as those living with AIDS--have proven to be rather strong programs that have strong support.

Furthermore, already, across the board in HUD, there has been a reduction in personnel services and in the salaries and expenses of $20 million already compared with last year's overall within HUD. So this is a duplicate and hitting at vulnerable populations that we do not want to or should not want to be reducing. The reduction again requires that there be some reduction in personnel because people's salaries go up. They go up because people get a COLA, or a cost-of-living increase, of some sort with their salaries, or they move up in their category because of longevity. So it ends up putting people who have jobs out of work and reducing the personnel to provide service to the American people and slows down the work of the offices in all these places where I think we all have a stake in making certain that they are efficiently implemented.

So I would urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. In this instance, it is again a case of freezing a salaries and expenses account at the previous year's level. But this one has an interesting sidelight in that, in the legislation that we have before us, we have adopted a Presidential recommendation for a partial-year funding for project-based section 8 vouchers, which is going to cause considerable additional administration than the usual program of doing full-year continuation of those voucher programs. There is going to be much uncertainty if this goes on all the way to adoption. There would be much uncertainty for the people who are the owners and providers of that housing, and probably some loss in actual affordable housing available under the project-based section 8 program. So this is a case where they need that assistance. This is where we administer the housing programs for the elderly and disabled, the so-called 202 programs and 811, chapters 202 and chapter 811 for elderly and disabled people, as well as housing counseling assistance.

In addition, we have the Federal Housing Administration, which is having a much larger level of activity as we are trying to dig out of the foreclosure crisis from the past, and that agency needs to have personnel that are qualified and able to do the right job.

So again here--and by the way, I made an error in my previous comments when I said there was a reduction across the board for HUD. What I should have indicated was that it was a reduction in the salaries and expenses account over a period of time going back to 2010 of $20 million across the programs of salaries and expenses within HUD over that time.

So I made a mistake saying it was a $20 million reduction in 1 year. But for all those reasons, I urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. Madam Chair, now at this point we have--I think this is the last of this group of amendments that have been proposed in this area, in essence. And when you put them together, because one was for $6.5 million, one was for about $5 million, then there were a couple that were a little--there was one that was a little over $1 million and then a couple that were smaller--the sum total of people who will be taken out of the--who this would require, the freeze, in that way, would require that some number around 200-or-so employees would be put out of positions.

Now, the gentleman from Georgia thinks that, well, they're Federal bureaucrats; but they're providing a service. In this instance, it is the service in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which has a budget, total budget, of $70-million-or-so. And this 300,000 is only a couple of percent out of it.

Most of the salaries and expenses, most of these agencies that he has been affecting are mostly done in salaries and expenses of the operation of the office. But they all provide a public service to people. In this instance, it's the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Well, it ensures that Americans have the same right, that all Americans have the same right to housing and investigates instances where those rights have been violated. So we are, in every instance of them, and we dealt with a couple of similar ones last night before in the other department under this bill--they only serve to slow down the effective operation of those offices to provide services across the whole gamut of things which have been given to them to do, whether it be public housing, whether it be the Veterans Administration program, here the Fair Housing Administration program, the FHA, the housing for elders, housing for disabled people. All of them are the same ilk. There's no reason to do anything other than the same thing that we have done in the past. And so I'm urging, again, a ``no'' vote on this.

I yield back the balance of my time;

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Mr. OLVER. The amendment that the gentleman from Georgia has now offered has to do with the Public Housing Capital Fund.

The public housing infrastructure currently has an estimated $26 billion of maintenance backlog. In fact, capital repairs accumulate at the rate of something over $3 billion a year, which is considerably higher than $1.9 billion that is contained in this--$1.985 billion that's contained in this bill. So what we are doing is, year by year, continuing to provide maintenance funding: the replacement of utilities, the replacement of appliances, as well as such simple maintenance as painting if it's needed, and so on.

In our more than a million housing units, in the 3,500 or so of our total housing authorities around the country, we are steadily putting these in a situation where we're building a further capital maintenance backlog gap year by year by year.

This is never a wise thing to do when it's at the extent that we are presently doing it. But the $110 million at least is a little bit better than not having the $110 million, which would be an even greater increase in the backlog gap that we have for maintenance, repair, and upgrading of our housing units.

All of those housing units are intended to last for many years and be used long into the future. If we don't maintain them properly in a reasonable way, then eventually we will lose those units. It is much more expensive to replace the units with new units than it is to maintain them in a proper way.

I urge a ``no'' vote on this amendment so that we do not continue to dig our hole deeper on the maintenance needs for the stock of housing that we have in our 3,500 public housing authorities around the country.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. I'm not sure I have anything much to add to what my chairman has said, other than to just point out, if you look back at the number of dollars that were assigned for the fiscal year '11 bill, that was over $4.6 billion. So in 2012, the amount of money brought that down to under $4 billion. The $500-plus million that the gentleman from Iowa had pointed out was part of the reserves that were taken from those housing authorities around the country that had substantial reserves. So that has been done. That was a one-shot kind of a deal. And now the funding has to go back to something that is in line with the yearly fundings, going back to a period of time of well into a decade ago, that were on a different guide path. So this is just returning to that.

It is at the President's request. It's below the amount that has been granted in the other body's allocation. They had a larger allocation in their numbers for it. This particular account is well below ours. It's $70 million or so below what has been provided by the chairman in the mark for this year.

So I think this is entirely appropriate, given the size of the maintenance gaps and the need to keep maintaining your facilities, your housing quality so that you don't end up losing that or ending up with much higher expense for replacement. I urge a ``no'' vote on the amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. Madam Chair, this is an amendment that would take a huge chunk out of the CDBG program. This is one of the areas in which I have been particularly, I thought, most commendable about what the chairman's mark is in the bill for the CDBG.

The CDBG is a hugely popular program in communities around the country. We have, as I have mentioned in my opening remarks at the beginning of this bill, 65 percent of our population living in communities in metropolitan areas with over half a million people, and close to 90 percent of our people live in communities with over 50,000 people. It's roughly around 50,000 people that are entitlement communities and get an amount of money that they may use in a flexible kind of a way in their cities and towns of large size, and can directly get that money to use for things that they need in their cities. Their cities and towns have suffered greatly in the Great Recession that we have had before us, and they have housing needs which are very substantial.

Now I would point out to the gentleman from Utah that the amount for the CDBG program as proposed by Chairman Latham I am commending him for and strongly support his allocation for this. The amount that he has provided in this bill within the allocation and with the $4 billion reduction that the bill entails is below the number that CDBG was given all the way back in 2008. It has varied up and down, depending upon the allocations and depending upon what has gone on. But this one still is below. And I strongly support it and would urge that it be maintained.

And by the way, about 20 percent of the whole amount goes directly to States, which then can use it in a discretionary way in groups of smaller communities. So it actually gets into rural areas and small communities--in communities like those of the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, whose district has no community larger than about 15,000 people. But his district manages to get a considerable amount of money through the State of Kentucky for the congressional district.

So it is something that goes to everybody in their districts in a flexible way for things that are eligible under the law.

But when it is being used for the development of housing, then it ends up clearly directly providing for jobs. If it's used in the way of social services through nonprofit organizations, again it is providing jobs for people who are doing great service for our population. So I'm a strong supporter of this.

I certainly urge that the amendment be defeated, and I will stop there because other people wish to speak, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, here we have kind of the yang that went with the yin. The gentleman's amendment here a few minutes ago, the last one that he offered, was $3.5 billion, and taking that out of this allocation.

In this case, it's a $6 million amount. That's about 5,000 times as much as the six. The first was 5,000 times as much as this one. Maybe I'm off by an order of magnitude. I'm not quite sure.

The gentleman from California has pointed out that the President did not want to do this at all. Well, actually, the President had asked the committee to create a user fee to pay for this rather than the mechanism by which this really very small program--this $6 million program of loan guarantees--has been functioning, which was to pay for any risk involved. The gentleman is claiming, if there were any serious risk, that it should be paid for out of the subsequent years' allocations under CDBG.

It turns out, for those places that would use this program, the loan guarantee program, there has never been a penny lost of the Federal taxpayers on any of the section 108 projects that we have issued in this program, and there have been a number of them. It actually is one of the most flexible. The Community Development loan guarantee program is exceedingly flexible and very creative. It has been used to create larger projects, projects that create jobs and that may be part of the revitalization of a whole target area, and it always ends up bringing in substantial additional private investment into the neighborhood.

So it's creating jobs. It is used often for the reuse of old factory buildings that are no longer viable in the forms that they were. Particularly in my part of the country, it has been used in that kind of a way--and successfully--to make a project that may turn out to be housing, that may turn out to be a business incubator or whatever. This is a very flexible program and one that the Federal taxpayer has never lost money on.

The creation of jobs and the development of new businesses that come into a place that may be part of a development of this sort is what gives us a robust economy. A robust economy is the best way we have of reducing the deficit because you can end up cutting and cutting and cutting programs, and if you do not end up creating jobs in the long run, you're simply not going to return to a robust economy. I think we know that.

So I rise in opposition to this amendment. I think it is a counterproductive thing to do. It's very small. It has never lost any money. It operates quite well. The chairman, with my assent--though he didn't need my assent--certainly left it in there. I support his position very strongly, and I urge the defeat of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, we were talking about the amendment that the gentleman from Arizona has offered, and he has offered an amendment that would take $200 million out of the HOME Investment Partnership program as recommended by Chairman Latham and the subcommittee and through the procedures of the subcommittee and the full committee actions before coming to the floor.

I rise in strong opposition to this amendment. There have been some controversies with the HOME Investment Partnership program; but there were statutory changes last year, and HUD is now in the process of finishing the rule to go along with those statutory changes. So those reforms are now basically in place.

To my understanding, at least, there has been no instance of our actual loss of money from the HOME Partnership program at any time, but there have been projects that have been stalled. This is one of the few programs that we have in this bill that actually results in the construction of housing. Most affordable housing projects use multiple sources to complete a development, and occasionally it is possible that the private development monies don't materialize to a project that has been approved for the HOME Partnership program. If that happens, then HUD takes the money back and uses it someplace else. It doesn't in any way end up resulting in a loss to the taxpayers of the country.

The HOME program is, as I say, one of the few programs that actually funds newly constructed housing under this legislation. These funds are used. They provide needed jobs in our communities; they ease the unemployment in the construction sector; they produce housing; and they don't end up costing the taxpayers any money.

To the degree that that is followed and we can produce housing, then I am certainly in favor of it and strongly support Chairman Latham's assignment of the additional money. I would point out that the level of the funding at the level that has been recommended by the Appropriations Committee and by the subcommittee that Mr. Latham chairs, that the amount of money that has been assigned is below the amount that was assigned 5 years ago for the 2008 budget.

We have been through ups and downs on this one over time, and I certainly would urge a ``no'' vote on the gentleman's amendment.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. OLVER. This is one of those cases in which we've gone back and forth here today with the gentleman from California. This must be the eighth or ninth of these, and it's hard to find ways of being very creative or original about what you're saying.

The interesting thing here is that, for some of the time, the gentleman has been going back to whatever we had done several years ago, going back arbitrarily to some point in the past. Here, of course, he is supporting the President's position. I was not aware that the gentleman from California supported the President's position in much of anything.

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Mr. OLVER. Excuse me. Thank you very much.

Please forgive me. You don't even look alike. I think I was mistaking you for a different member of the California delegation.

I thank the gentleman from Iowa for correcting me.

In any case, I rise in opposition to this amendment. The gentleman's amendment would take the position of this subcommittee down by $12.3 million. Basically, the position of the subcommittee has been that we are providing a little bit more for the NeighborWorks program than the President requested and that we are providing a little bit less for the HUD Counseling program than the President requested. Together, though, they would be about the same.

NeighborWorks, which is what the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation's common name is, is a major nonprofit organization that operates all over the country. It has affiliates in 50 States, and I'm sure it has an affiliate somewhere in the gentleman's district. The NeighborWorks program is a group that we relied on very heavily to do counseling during the very height of the foreclosure crisis 3 or 4 years ago. We relied on it to go out there and actually contract with and manage the process of providing counseling to hundreds of thousands of people who were engaged in or who were subject to foreclosure.

So we on our side, on this side--in this branch at least--have felt that NeighborWorks has been a very good organization, which is in large part why we have given them a little bit more and why we have given a little bit less to the HUD program.

We argued the HUD program last night. They leverage something close to $4 billion in direct investments to serve low- and moderate-income families through all of their affiliates in all the work that they do. It's a very, very good and reliable organization that we've come to value very highly.

They also administered this Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling program, which gives targeted assistance to families at risk of losing their homes. The gentleman seems to cut this account because it is above the President's request, but I think I have explained that we're slightly above on this one and slightly below on the other one.

Again, I would say I was not aware that the gentleman from Georgia--I went to California again, didn't I?--was such a fan of the President's request numbers, that he valued them so highly. I believe--and I think that my chairman believes--that NeighborWorks is deserving of this small increase, and I believe that Chairman Latham has thoughtfully targeted resources in this area. I hope the amendment will be defeated, and I urge the Members to vote ``no.''

I yield back the balance of my time.

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