For the Section 811 program the Administration is requesting $251 million -- $8 million less than Congress appropriated for FY 2003. The Bush Administration’s budget also proposes to maintain the current structure of the Section 811 program, with 75% of funds going toward capital advances and project-based assistance to non-profit groups to build and manage housing for people with disabilities (including non-elderly adults with severe mental illnesses). The other 25% of the program would continue going toward tenant-based rental assistance, also known as the Section 811 "mainstream" program.
In FY 2004, for both the capital advance/project-based side of the Section 811 program and for the tenant-based mainstream side, Congress and HUD face a continued challenge to fund renewal of expiring rent subsidies. In both cases, these ongoing obligations to renew funding associated with units already in existence are expected to drain limited resources.
For the capital advance/project-based side, HUD estimates that $8 million will be needed to renew expiring project-based rent subsidies (also known as PRACs) -- $2 million more than was needed in FY 2003. On the tenant-based "mainstream" side, HUD projects that $42 million will be needed in FY 2004 to renew expiring tenant-based rent subsidies that were originally funded in prior years ($10 million more than was needed in FY 2003).
The result is that the Administration’s proposed $8 million cut for Section 811 is, in reality, at least a $20 million cut when measured in terms of the capacity of 811 to produce new units (both project-based and tenant-based), i.e. the $8 million proposed reduction, added on to the $12 million renewal burden for existing units.
In addition, the President’s FY 2004 budget contains an unspecified proposal to link the 811 program to the Administration’s ongoing initiative to end chronic homelessness over the next decade. This proposal (known as the "Samaritan Initiative") is included in the HUD budget as $50 million request for new permanent supportive housing and grants for outreach to people experiencing chronic homelessness (including homeless people with mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse). HHS and the VA are proposing to contribute $10 million each in FY 2004 for services to accompany the program. The Samaritan Initiative is also part of the Administration’s proposed $1.528 billion request for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. This includes full funding for the cost of renewing all expiring rent subsidies associated with the Shelter Plus Care program – estimated by HUD to cost $194 million in FY 2004.
The President’s budget proposes to add $36 million in FY 2004 for Section 8 vouchers for non-elderly people with disabilities adversely affected by designation of public and assisted housing as "elderly only." Congress has funded this allocation of tenant-based vouchers since 1996 in response to the erosion of affordable housing resources for non-elderly people with disabilities that has occurred as a result of the growth of "elderly only" housing. This effort has been championed by key leaders in Congress including Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO).
The Bush Administration is pushing a proposal in Congress (HR 1841) to convert the Section 8 rental voucher program to a block grant to the states – known as HANF (Housing Assistance to Needy Families). NAMI has joined a broad-based coalition of disability organizations, non-profit providers, and housing agencies to oppose this proposal. First, a block grant would "cap," or even reduce Section 8 voucher appropriations, and could lead to reduce the number of households assisted and/or the amount of assistance provided to participating households.
Further, under a block grant, Congress would no longer have the direct responsibility for continuing assistance to households participating in the program. In addition, because of the continued implementation of "elderly only" designation policies by Housing Authorities and HUD-assisted housing owners, HUD’s administration of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program has been extremely important to mitigate the negative affects of designation for non-elderly people with disabilities.
With a flexible block grant, block-grant administrators could re-direct Section 8 voucher funding away from people with disabilities who are most in need of housing assistance in order to serve other more politically popular groups, including higher income households who are less expensive to serve.
NAMI affiliate leaders and advocates are urged to take the materials included below regarding the FY 2003 HUD SuperNOFA to state and local housing officials, housing authority directors and non-profit groups and urge them to apply funding for HUD resources that target people with severe mental illness.