House Overwhelmingly Approves Three Hurricane Housing Relief Bills
October 7, 2005
Last evening, the House passed the following three bills that were introduced on September 26, which would provide direct housing relief to survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
H.R. 3894, the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Housing Act, was approved by a vote of 418-0. Introduced by Rep. Rodney Alexander (LA), the legislation would: grant the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) temporary waiver authority of certain eligibility requirements under the Section 8 voucher program; authorize the HUD Secretary to directly administer vouchers if a Public Housing Authority is unable to do so; direct the Departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and the Government Sponsored Enterprises to compile an inventory of facilities in the affected areas that can be used for temporary and permanent housing; and require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report to Congress on the state of emergency housing disaster plans.
Rep. Alexander said, “Because of the hurricanes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, over one million total households were affected. Between 40-50 percent of these households, whether rented or owned, will need to be completely replaced. These are high numbers and do not even include Katrina's damage in Florida. I am concerned for the people of my state. I am concerned for the people of the Gulf Coast Region. It is time for us to take action to get people out of shelters and into apartments, into homes, and into a place where they can begin to start their lives over.”
H.R. 3895, the Rural Housing Hurricane Relief Act, was approved by a vote of 335-81. Introduced by Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee Chairman Richard H. Baker (LA), the bill would: give the Rural Housing Services (RHS) the ability to convert voucher funds attached to rural housing projects that are no longer habitable because of the hurricanes into temporary housing assistance; expand the flexibility of the RHS by temporarily eliminating the limitations on the number of housing vouchers it can issue; and amend the single family housing guaranteed loan program by expanding refinancing to include loans for housing repairs and rehabilitation.
Also introduced by Rep. Baker, H.R. 3896 was approved by a vote of 415-0. The Hurricane Katrina Emergency Relief CDBG Flexibility Act, would temporarily remove the public services cap on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and temporarily wave, for one year, the public hearing requirement so that communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita can expedite the disbursement of CDBG funds
Rep. Baker said, “The one-two punch of Katrina and Rita has created hardships for so many of our citizens, as well as placed enormous pressures on local communities to meet their needs. To help, H.R. 3895 will ensure that rural communities have the opportunity to rebuild and that capital will be available to finance the reconstruction, while H.R. 3896 will help maintain basic local government functions that are critical to the recovery effort.”