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WASHINGTON, DC-A new report comparing House and Senate versions of a housing bill has concluded that the Senate’s legislation is far more conducive to the restoration of stability to the Section 8 or Housing Choice Voucher Program. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities director of housing policy and “High Stakes for the Housing Voucher Program in the 2006 Appropriations Bill” co-author Barbara Sard summarized the report’s findings during a conference call yesterday, saying that “the House bill wastes money and the Senate bill uses money more efficiently.” The House and the Senate are currently in the process of crafting a final bill.

As defined by CBPP, the goals should be to “restore funding for vouchers that have been lost in 2004 and 2005 and to implement a stable voucher funding policy that will distribute funding to public housing agencies equitably and efficiently over the long term.” The National Low Income Housing Coalition concurs and adds that the voucher program should seek to “increase the ability of the poorest families and individuals to secure their right to decent and affordable housing.”

While CBPP commends both chambers’ stipulations for an increase in funding, observing that both restore most of the vouchers lost in 2005, neither offers appropriations to completely cover vouchers lost in 2004 and for 2005 vouchers. CBPP notes that $14.3 billion is required to achieve this goal; both chambers fall short with the House calling for approximately $14.2 billion and the Senate, $14.1 billion.

The House’s version of the funding policy, known as HR 3058 or the Treasury Department FY2006 Appropriations bill, calls for a continuation of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2005 formula. That calculation is based on voucher costs determined during a three-month period beginning May 2004. “HUD’s inflation factors are two years behind; the Senate bill will use more updated data,” Sard said. The formula outlined in the Senate’s bill, S 1446, determines the allocation of funds based on the state of local housing markets and economies as surmised over the most recent 12-month period.

“If Congress is to repair the damage done to the voucher program in 2004 and 2005–and our analysis shows it could do so while remaining within the 2006 budget proposed by the Administration–it must improve the 2006 voucher renewal formula, by building on the solid recommendations of the Senate Appropriations Committee,” CBPP concludes in the report, which was also co-authored by senior policy analyst Will Fischer and housing policy analyst Douglas Rice.

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