WASHINGTON, DC-The National Low Income Housing Coalition has received significant government backing from the House of Representatives this week when HR 1227, the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007, was passed by a vote of 302 to 125. The bill addresses the housing needs on the Gulf Coast after the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

One-for-one replacement in the redevelopment of public housing and granting displaced tenants an absolute right of return are among the bill’s components. It also extends the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s housing assistance and, when that expires, moves eligible households to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s assistance.

The bill was introduced by representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, and Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.

According to NLIHC testimony, at least 150,000 families on the Gulf Coast remain displaced, as reported by GlobeSt.com. Next on NLIHC’s wish list is the Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007, which includes a provision for an Affordable Housing Fund. Sheila Crowley, president of NLIHC, also recently testified in support of this bill.

She tells GlobeSt.com that she is very confident that the House will eventually pass the act. “I expect some of the provisions in it currently will change when it is marked up next week,” she says. “The bill has outlined specific provisions about what the money can be used for and there are differing opinions about that.” In particular, she says, there are rules stating what percentage of the funds can be used for home ownership. “We think that should be capped.”

Once the bill leaves the House, though, its ultimate destination is unknown. “I am not going to make predictions about what will happen in the Senate this year,” Crowley says. The Senate could take it up or could write its own version. In the last Congress, a similar bill made it out of the House. The Senate had its own bill, but that was never brought to the floor.

NLIHC cites broad American support for its policies. It points to a Zogby America telephone survey conducted earlier this month by Zogby International as proof. Of the people surveyed, 90% say that providing affordable housing in their communities is important. Nearly two-thirds or 63% say it is very important, and another 27% rate this as somewhat important. In contrast, only one in ten says this is not very important or not at all important in their communities.

The survey also found that Americans are more likely to feel the country is on the wrong track rather than the right track towards the achievement of the goal of decent home and suitable living environment for every American family. A slight majority, 51% feel the country is on the wrong track, compared to 39% who feel it is on the right track and 11% who remain unsure.

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