Starting out with the GSA budget request, the administration isasking for $481.6 million in discretionary budget authority, whichincludes the request of a $300.2-million budget authority for theFederal Buildings Fund, $172.9 million for GSA operatingappropriations, and an additional $8.5 million for the presidentialtransition. Of interest to the Washington, DC real estate communityis the proposal to build a new home for the Department of HomelandSecurity, whose operations are still spread out in more than 60different locations. GSA funding would also be provided tomodernize the land port of San Ysidro, CA, one of the largest inthe world.

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The fiscal year 2009 budget request also includes $66.6million--a modest increase of slightly more than half a millionfrom the previous year--in funding for the Office of FederalHousing Enterprise Oversight, which regulates Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac.

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Accompanying this request is a call for legislation tostrengthen OFH, especially given the risks that GSEs now face inthe current mortgage market crisis, according James Lockhart,director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight."The need for an empowered, unified regulator is even more criticalthan in the past."

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Assistance for homeowners hit by the subprime crisis was alsoaddressed through increases in mortgage financing options forhomebuyers and homeowners through reforms in Federal HousingAdministration authority; $65 million for the Department of Housingand Urban Development's Housing Counseling program; and $150million for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. A requestfor $2 billion--a 20% increase--for the HOME Investment Partnershipprogram was also in the budget, including $50 million for theAmerican Dream Downpayment Initiative.

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Advocates for affordable housing were disappointed by theseallocations for the most part. The President cites "turbulence" inthe US housing market as a core issue to be addressed in the FY09federal budget; nonetheless, he weakens programs that assist thelowest income people find and keep affordable housing, says SheilaCrowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition."It is a typical Bush budget, one that offers some small stepsforward, while taking many steps back."

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NLIHC cited the following as examples: The budget would cut thenumber of housing vouchers that help very poor people pay theirrent by 100,000; cut funds for housing for poor elderly people by27% and by 32% for people with disabilities; cut the fund forrepair and maintenance of public housing by 17% and eliminatefunding to repair public housing that is damaged by naturaldisasters; cut the block grants to cities and states for housingand community development program by 18%; flat fund homelessassistance grants; and eliminate the HUD rural housing program.

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NLIHC did find aspects of the budget to praise including theproposal to substantially increase funding for Section 8project-based housing, the 20% increase to the HOME program and the$39-million request for new vouchers for poor elderly and disabledpeople still displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and whosehousing assistance from FEMA will end in March 2009.

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