House and Senate Funding Bills Risk Loss of Rental Assistance For Thousands of Low-Income Families
 The press releases are available on the committee web sites at
http://appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=47cf6eff-98cd-42fe-b052-42113b9d431f and http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=259012.
 Funding reserves are balances of unspent program funds from previous years. In general, a well-managed housing agency will maintain modest reserves to cover unanticipated costs due to fluctuations in local housing markets and other factors and thereby to protect low-income families from displacement. Some agencies have reserve balances that exceed the modest level required for this purpose, while roughly one-fifth of agencies have few reserves.
 The Senate bill provides $17.14 billion for voucher renewals, including $4 billion in advance funding for 2013. Yet the bill also rescinds $750 million of the nearly $4 billion that was made available for 2012 in advance in the fiscal year 2011 law. The bill thus makes $16.4 billion in net funds available for 2012. In addition, the Senate bill authorizes renewal funding to be used for temporary housing vouchers under HUD’s Disaster Housing Assistance program; the President’s budget had requested $50 million for this purpose separately.
 Many observers believe that HUD’s voucher administrative fee formula is outdated, and HUD has commissioned a study of program administrative costs for the purpose of improving the formula. Pending the results of that study, however, the existing formula is the only reasonable benchmark that exists.
 For a more detailed discussion of the implications of the House and Senate bills for public housing, see the recent paper and blog by Will Fischer at https://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3583 and http://www.offthechartsblog.org/senate-bill-restores-some-public-housing-funds-but-still-makes-damaging-cuts/.
 The Senate bill also includes important policy improvements that would enable housing agencies to use operating reserves accumulated through efficient management to renovate developments and allow HUD to test a proposal to allow some public housing developments to switch to subsidy contracts that will make it easier for them to leverage private investment to help rehabilitate their properties.
 The Senate bill also provides $120 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, while specifying that $80 million shall be granted to public housing agencies.
 Voucher renewal funding could be increased in the Senate bill either by increasing the amount of new funding provided for renewals or reducing the bill’s $750 million rescission of advance funds provided in the 2011 law.
 Formerly, the Housing Certificate Fund account was used for all of the Section 8 rental assistance programs, including the voucher (tenant-based) and project-based rental assistance (PBRA) programs. In 2005, Congress created separate accounts for the two types of Section 8 contracts that rely on annual appropriations, yet payments for the remaining long-term Section 8 PBRA contracts are still made from the HCF account. The Rent Supplement account is used for assistance for low-income families living in some properties with Section 236 subsidized mortgages.