Last October, the House of Representatives passed by a narrow vote H.R. 1461, the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005. Besides establishing new oversight regulations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bill requires these organizations to dedicate a percent of their after-tax income to create a new Affordable Housing Fund.
The Fund is expected to provide up to $1 billion per year and could be used for the following purposes:
- Production, preservation and rehabilitation of rental housing for extremely low and very low income families
- Production, preservation and rehabilitation of housing for homeownership, including down payment assistance, closing cost assistance and assistance for interest rate buy-downs
- Leveraged grants for the development, preservation, rehabilitation or purchase of affordable housing that meets underserved needs for affordable housing, and for community and economic development activities in economically underserved areas.
- For the first two years, the assets would be targeted to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. For the next three years, the fund could be used for affordable housing anywhere in the country.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate to address oversight regulations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, the bill (S 190) does not contain the Affordable Housing Fund. Efforts are now underway to urge the Senate to include an Affordable Housing Fund in S 190 but without the offending provisions that limit or prohibit non profit organizations.
Catholic Social Teaching has long recognized housing as a basic human right. The Catholic community--through its parishes, diocesan structures, and Catholic Charities agencies--is one of the largest providers of shelter in the nation. Since the late 1960's, the federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has solicited, encouraged, and funded a variety of Church sponsored housing--particularly senior housing, transitional housing, homeless shelters, and affordable permanent housing for low-income individuals and families.
Bishop DiMarzio, Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee, wrote to Mr. Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House: Proposals that would limit eligible recipients to organizations that have as their primary purpose the provision of affordable housing would effectively prevent Catholic dioceses, parishes and Catholic Charities agencies from participating in Affordable Housing Fund programs. Similarly, proposals that would prohibit recipients from engaging in voter registration and lobbying activities with their own funds during the period they are utilizing affordable housing funds would force Catholic agencies to choose between participating in Affordable Housing Fund programs or engaging in constitutionally protected voter registration and lobbying activities with their own funds. I urge you to oppose inclusion of these kinds of unnecessary limitations and prohibitions in H.R. 1461 as it moves to the House floor for a vote.
What You Can Do
Contact your Senators and urge them to support the inclusion of an Affordable Housing Fund in S. 190, the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 without the provision excluding Catholic and other nonprofit organizations. Members of Congress need to hear from people in local communities about the need to provide every family with access to affordable housing.
For More Information
Thom Shellabarger at the USCCB, 202 541 3189 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruth White, Catholic Charities USA 703 549 1390 X195 or rwhite@CatholicCharitiesUSA.org