House Financial Services Committee Approves Roukema Housing Bill

July 11, 2002

The House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Michael G. Oxley (OH), today approved a bill to increase the availability of affordable housing and expand homeownership opportunities across the U.S.

The Housing Affordability for America Act (H.R. 3995), introduced by Housing Subcommittee Chairwoman Marge Roukema (NJ) and Vice Chairman Mark Green (WI), was approved by voice vote.

?Homeownership is more than just an equity investment; it?s an investment in our local neighborhoods. Having your very own piece of that social fabric is an opportunity that every American deserves,? said Chairman Oxley, a cosponsor of the bill.

?As well as being a community anchor, housing is a point of strength in today?s economy. This bill provides another form of needed economic stimulus,? Oxley said.

?More and more American families are forced to spend too much of their income on housing. Far too many can?t find decent affordable housing at all. Certain segments of the population ? like minorities, seniors and the disabled ? face especially high barriers to homeownership,? said Chairwoman Roukema. ?This bill will break down barriers to homeownership, increase the availability of affordable housing, and strengthen the ability of American families to build wealth toward the goal of owning a home.?

The bill will help to restore confidence and accountability to our nation?s housing policies by reforming programs that are underused, duplicative or hindered by vague objectives. H.R. 3995 provides flexibility for local governments and programs so that they can better serve the needs of their individual communities.

To help first-time low-income homebuyers, who often struggle to meet downpayment and closing costs, the bill would establish an American Dream Downpayment Fund. A top initiative of the Bush Administration, the fund would help meet initial home buying costs, which are the largest obstacle to homeownership.

Among provisions in the bill are the following:

  • The bill provides the Federal Housing Administration with additional resources and tools to encourage homeownership opportunities for all Americans and to increase the supply of affordable rental housing nationwide.

  • It provides ways to rehabilitate and preserve existing elderly housing and to convert existing elderly public housing to assisted living.  

  • In order to allow public housing authorities to custom fit programs to address the specific housing concerns in their communities, the bill would provide them with needed flexibility and would relieve administrative burdens which impede success.

  • The bill would also require certain government agencies to disclose when proposing new regulations any impact the new rules would have on housing affordability.

  • A downpayment assistance program would be established to help teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public safety officials purchase homes in the communities where they work. The legislation also authorizes the HUD Secretary to develop a three-year pilot program to assist law enforcement officials, including correctional officers, to purchase homes in designated ?high crime? areas without a downpayment.
  • To aid the fight against homelessness across the nation the bill would authorize flexible grants to state and local governments and community organizations for temporary and permanent housing and support services for homeless people.

  • The bill would designate a single office under HUD to coordinate housing counseling. Consulting and education services for renters, buyers and sellers are key to increasing homeownership and reaching out to populations facing increased obstacles to obtaining a mortgage.
  • It would make permanent a simplified and cost-saving technique for calculating home mortgage downpayments. This would provide stability in the mortgage process by ensuring homebuyers are able to keep downpayment costs down. The authority for the current program is scheduled to expire December 31, 2002.

The Committee adopted several amendments to H.R. 3995 including:

  • An amendment offered by Chairman Oxley makes technical changes and establishes that a mandatory counseling requirement for HUD-insured loans in high-foreclosure neighborhoods begins as a pilot program. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. John LaFalce (NY) directs HUD to reinstate a program to clean up dilapidated foreclosed homes while the program is being reformed. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. James A. Leach (IA) allows HUD to issue grants to smaller communities that are generally unserved by public housing funds. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Pat Tiberi (OH) makes federal police officers eligible for a provision to help teachers and local public-safety workers purchase homes in the communities where they serve. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Reps. Melissa Hart (PA) and Paul Kanjorski (PA) adds a sense of congress to encourage HUD to provide incentives to home builders to offer 10-year warranties for newly constructed homes purchased under the National Housing Act. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Reps. James Maloney (CT) and Mike Rogers (MI) preserves the availability of affordable housing for seniors for development projects that go into foreclosure, including giving preference to qualified non-profits to buy such projects.  The amendment is in response to two recent cases where HUD terminated the requirement that apartments be rented to low-income seniors when they were sold at foreclosure. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) provides protection for victims of domestic violence from the ?one strike? law that applies to public housing. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Reps. Bob Ney (OH) and Mike Ross (AR) encourages the sale of rural housing multifamily developments to nonprofits. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Mel Watt (NC) eliminates a cumbersome HUD-approval process to increase payment standards in high cost areas or in cases of disabled families who typically have a harder time finding affordable housing. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Mel Watt (NC) that creates a demonstration program to provide for a HUD affordable housing database to inform potential tenants of housing opportunities. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Michael Capuano (MA) updates the Interagency Council on the Homeless to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. (Approved by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Steve Israel (NY) provides for consideration of a possible program to encourage small community downtown revitalization. (Adopted by voice vote.)
  • An amendment offered by Reps. Sue Kelly (NY) and Bernie Sanders (VT) establishes a federal matching fund to provide grants to local and state affordable housing trust funds. (Approved by voice vote.)

Source: House Financial Services Committee

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