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WASHINGTON, DC-An assault on Capitol Hill occurred yesterday as members of the US Conference of Mayors presented to Congress their program of housing needs. The 54 initiatives, crafted as part of the Conference’s National Housing Forum, focused on five key areas and included such points as a call for $250 million to modernize special-needs housing for seniors and HIV/AIDS patients. Also part of the package was the need for exit-tax relief for owners wishing to sell their affordable housing assets. The relief would come to those who sold to entities that maintain the properties’ affordable status. Congressional members on hand to receive the mayoral delegation included Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-VT).

Virtually all participants in the Tuesday preparatory sessions–when the initiatives were drafted–praised newly elected Conference president Tom Menino (Boston’s mayor), for pulling the session together on such short notice. He took the lead post in the organization only two weeks prior.

But GlobeSt.com asked Menino what he had planned in order to keep the momentum going once the proposals were out of his hands and on the sometimes slow-to-respond Congressional agenda. “Now we start an intensive lobbying effort,” he responded. “These proposals may not see the light of day for weeks or months or even sometime next year. It’s our intent to keep these issues on the front burner.”

In terms of specific recommendations in the five major focus areas, Special Needs Housing initiatives included an expansion of Section 202 funding to $760 million annually and the appropriation of $50 million to preserve elderly housing.

Included in the Public Housing needs, the mayors called for legislation to fund the development of 150,000 units over the next 10 years “in as manner that encourages income diversity.”

Among the Rental Housing initiatives was the creation of a new production program to serve the needs of working families with incomes up to 100% AMI. The mayors also asked that resources such as LIHTC be allocated to reflect city priorities.

Within the Preservation agenda was the exit-tax relief program.

Finally, Homeownership initiatives included a joint public/private push to fund education on such matters as credit counseling and financial literacy.

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