(H.R. 3288) On the Hensarling of Texas amendment, which would have eliminated $250 million in funding from a HUD program that provides grants to local housing authorities to construct, rehabilitate and transform distressed public housing units into mixed-income communities
This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) to H.R. 3228, which provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The amendment would have eliminated funding for HUD's HOPE VI program, which receives $250 million in the underlying bill. The program provides competitive grants to local housing authorities to construct, rehabilitate and transform distressed public housing units into mixed-income communities. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website noted that the HOPE VI program “has completed its goal of contributing to the demolition of 100,000 severely distressed public housing units.”
Rep. Hensarling began his remarks in support of his amendment by claiming “this Democratic-controlled Congress has spent $1.1 trillion on a government stimulus plan (and) . . . also passed an omnibus bill costing $410 billion . . . (and) We now have the single largest Federal deficit that we have ever had in our Nation's history. He then cited the previous remark by President Obama that: “(I)f we're going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington. We need to spend money wisely . . . That starts with the painstaking work of examining every program . . . and asking ourselves: Is this program really essential? Are the taxpayers getting their money's worth?”
Hensarling then focused on the HOPE VI program and cited the OMB statement as evidencing the fact that “the program . . . has already accomplished its original objective.” He then said he had been told “that the program is sitting on almost $1 billion of unexpended balances.” Hensarling concluded his remarks by saying we're shoving more money their way and they can't even spend the money that they already have. It's time for us to lead by example, terminate one program . . . .”
Rep. Frank (D-MA) responded to Hensarling’s claim about the program having unexpended balances and therefore not needing any more funding. Frank said: “(I)f program money is spent too rapidly and it is then spent inefficiently, there is criticism. What has happened with HOPE VI is that in response to some legitimate criticism, some controls were proposed to slow things down. This money ultimately (will) get spent, but it (will) get spent in a way that is less likely to be abused. He referred to that situation as a “kind of a catch-22”.
Frank also said that that there are “lose either way'' arguments made against public housing and the HOPE VI program. He claimed: “(O)ften the criticism is in that public housing warehouses people in large projects that do not have the capacity to provide a decent living environment. HOPE VI is an effort to preserve the units, because we do have a shortfall for family public housing in many parts in the country . . . by redoing the projects to remove the stigma that has attached. And if you get rid of the HOPE VI program, you then abandon the notion that you are going to go to existing public housing to try to make it more livable and less concentrated. “
Frank concluded his statement by arguing that, “to simply shut the (HOPE VI) program off is, I think, to say to the people who live in the public housing that was built inappropriately--the residents didn't build it, society built it and put them there. It would say we are abandoning any effort to improve the livability of where you are, and also then make them more vulnerable to criticism and build opposition to the whole notion, when the alternative is to make the living conditions better for the people in the surrounding communities.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 152-276. One hundred and forty-four Republicans and eight Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-six Democrats and thirty Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the $250 million in fiscal year 2010 funding for HUD to make grants to construct, rehabilitate and transform distressed public housing units into mixed-income communities, remained in H.R. 3288.