For three years, the President, HUD, and the House of Representatives have taken steps to defund the Low Income Housing Preservation and Resident Homeownership Act (also known as Title VI or LIHPRHA), yet the program has received over one billion dollars in funding during that time, thanks to bi-partisan support from the Senate. Similar efforts to kill the program were made during this summer’s budget negotiations, but the Senate again passed a resolution keeping the program alive, at least through September’s round of conferencing with House members to arrive on a compromise HUD budget.
Enacted by Congress in 1992, LIHPRHA is designed to keep owners of older assisted housing from buying out of subsidized mortgages, and thus reducing the number of available affordable housing units. Part of the National Affordable Housing Act, the law codifies steps an owner of a property must take in order to sell it or end HUD’s affordability restrictions, provides incentives to owners to stay in HUD’s programs, and gives advantages to tenants and nonprofits in purchasing buildings should the owner choose to sell.
According to Michael Bodaken, Executive Director of the National Housing Trust, the program’s resiliency is due to grassroots support and what he calls “the most amazing housing fight…in this decade.” Individuals, tenant groups, and other nonprofits have pressured legislators and kept attention focused on the program, Bodaken said, and the result has been support from Senators ranging from Al D’Amato (R-NY) to Tom Harkin (D-IA).
While the Senate resolution is weak, providing for what Bodaken calls a “trivial” amount of funding, he said the fact that it was passed is “an incredible achievement given where we started. It keeps us alive and gives us something to fight for.” The amount stipulated in the Senate resolution was merely a “placeholder” he said, enough to keep the issue alive for a discussion in the conference. The program was funded with $350 million last year, and a group of 23 Senators have drafted a letter urging the conference committee to grant the same amount this year.
LIHPRHA was in jeopardy, in part, because of a scathing GAO report issued in July, which claimed that the program was approving funding “ranging from one-fourth of a property’s value to more than three times its value,” and suggested that HUD was unable “to ensure that the program is being managed effectively and efficiently, that federal funds are being spent wisely, and that preservation operations are consistent with program requirements.” Bodaken says the report was flawed, because its examination of the program looked only at a non-random sample of 40 high-cost projects.