House Committee Advances Several Housing Bills

June 4, 2004

H.R. 3755, Zero Downpayment Act of 2004: Introduced by Rep. Pat Tiberi (OH), the legislation, is a reflection of a proposal in the Administration's FY 2005 budget for HUD that would eliminate the downpayment requirement for families and individuals who buy homes with Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages.

Studies show that the single biggest obstacle to homeownership for most families is the inability to come up with enough cash to meet downpayment and closing costs. Minority families in particular are burdened by high downpayment requirements.  

A manager's amendment offered by Chairman Oxley would strengthen the legislation's bipartisan support by carefully delineating housing counseling provisions, and designating that an approved dwelling may have up to three units.  The amendment would sunset the program after five years which will give Congress an opportunity to reevaluate its success.

H.R. 4363, Helping Hands for Homeownership Act of 2004: Introduced by Rep. Mark Green (WI), the legislation would make a technical correction to the "Housing Opportunity Program Extension Act of 1996" to permit families who receive homes from groups such as Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) to fulfill the "sweat equity" requirement for receiving Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) funds by helping to build other Habitat homes in the community, in addition to their own.  SHOP provides competitive grants for groups such as Habitat for Humanity to help with land and infrastructure expenses.  

This change fulfills the original intent of Congress, and corrects a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development interpretation which creates a hurdle to homeownership -the exact opposite of HUD's mission.

The Committee approved a manager's amendment to the legislation by voice vote.  The amendment, offered by Chairman Oxley as a tribute to retiring Rep. Doug Bereuter (NE), would designate that section 502, the single-family housing loan guarantee program of the National Affordable Housing Act, be named after Rep. Bereuter.  The program, authored by Rep. Bereuter, facilitates home ownership for low-to-moderate-income borrowers in rural areas who are unable to obtain conventional mortgage financing.  

In addition, Members of the Committee took a moment at today's markup to honor Rep. Bereuter with a standing ovation for his 26 years of service.

H.R. 4471, the Homeownership Opportunity for Native Americans Act of 2004: Introduced by Rep. Rick Renzi (AZ), the legislation would amend the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 to provide statutory authority for the Title VI program to continue to operate at a 95 percent loan guarantee.  While the program has been operating at that level for some time, recent decisions by the Office of Management and Budget have threatened to reduce the loan guarantee to 80 percent.  There were no amendments to this bill.

Source:: House Financial Services Committee

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