Ms. ROYBAL-ALLARD. Mr. Chair, I regretfully rise in opposition to the FY13 Transportation Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill. I would like to extend my appreciation to Chairman Latham and Ranking Member Olver for their hard work on this bill. They were forced to make difficult decisions due to the low allocation that the Ryan Budget provided. Regrettably, this violation of the Budget Control Act, which was agreed to last year, led to devastating cuts to the Housing and Urban Development housing assistance program.
At a time when so many Americans have lost their homes or are struggling to keep them, this bill falls far short of meeting our nation's housing needs.
This is especially true for those who have fallen on hard times and those who are the poorest and most vulnerable among us.
By systematically underfunding HUD's three major rental assistance programs: Housing Choice vouchers, Public Housing and Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance this bill increases the chances of greater homelessness in our country especially for those already living in unstable housing conditions.
My home state is a perfect example of how the deep cuts to housing assistance in this bill will negatively impact those with the greatest housing needs.
California has an estimated shortage of 1.6 million affordable rental units and an average wait of 37 months for HUD-assisted housing.
Further reducing funding for affordable housing will only increase the number of extremely low income households who are living in unstable housing situations, paying the majority of their incomes towards rent and who remain at risk of becoming homeless.
Nationally it puts at risk the approximately 4.5 million low income families who depend on HUD programs for their housing needs, more than half of which include seniors and persons with disabilities.
The FY13 THUD bill underfunds Housing Choice vouchers by as much as $440 million, which translates into 55,000 vouchers for low income families in FY13. That's 55,000 families with an average annual income of $12,568 that will lose access to affordable housing.
Project-Based Rental Assistance is also underfunded and the legislation would only extend year-long contracts to certain property owners, leaving investors, owners and tenants uncertain about the future of the program. The consequence of this uncertainty could be fewer owners renewing their contracts and a reduction in the number of Section 8 units available to low-income families.
The bill continues to woefully underfund public housing. Capital funding for public housing has been shortchanged for the past decade, and without an increase, 1.1 million low income households will continue to be exposed to deteriorating living conditions and potential safety hazards.
This legislation also weakens federal efforts to assist those already homeless by underfunding Homeless Assistance Grants by more than $200 million. This means fewer permanent housing units, which have been shown to prevent homelessness and are less costly than the alternative of providing emergency shelter and services. For example, the Economic Roundtable found that individuals who are homeless in Los Angeles utilize an average of $34,000 a year in county services (not including costs to the city, state or federal government) and that once permanently housed that number drops to $14,000 (including housing capital, federal rental assistance and services).
Now is the time to protect low income families by prioritizing funding for affordable housing during these tough economic times. Unfortunately this bill falls short in that regard and puts far too many families in jeopardy of finding themselves without a safe and affordable home to call their own.
I regret that in good conscience I cannot support this bill.