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Senate Passes Billions in Funding for Homelessness Programs and Native Hawaiian Housing

Schatz Worked To Include $5 Million for Native Hawaiian Housing

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, legislation that will provide key funding for programs to support Native Hawaiian housing and address homelessness.  U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, worked to ensure more homeless assistance funds go to states with a greater need for housing resources.  He also worked to include $5 million in funding for the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program and additional resources for affordable housing programs in Hawai‘i and across the country.

“We were able to appropriate additional money for homelessness and affordable housing programs which will help Hawai‘i,”
said Senator Schatz.  “Homelessness is an urgent problem, and these additional funds will give our state the resources to help families access affordable housing and services while we continue to implement long-term solutions.”

The transportation and housing appropriations bill includes billions of dollars in funding for programs to address homelessness in Hawai‘i and across the country.  Specifically, the bill includes:

  • $2.33 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants. These grants fund local, regional, and state homeless assistance programs across the country.  Funding is used for permanent and supportive housing, transitional housing, and other supportive services.  Senator Schatz included language in the legislation to ensure that funding through this program is distributed to states with the greatest need.
  • $20.4 billion for Tenant Based Rental Assistance which provides for rental vouchers for more than 2.2 million households nationwide and 9,000 in Hawai‘i specifically.  The purpose of the program is to limit rent for low income families to no more than 30-percent of their income and HUD pays the difference to the private landlord.  In 2014, private owners in Hawai‘i who provide rental housing received more than $98 million in payments from this program.
  • $20 million for 2,500 new housing vouchers for children who age out of foster care;
  • $3 billion for Community Development Block Grants, a program that provides annual grants to states and local governments to develop viable urban communities and housing for low and moderate-income individuals;
  • $950 million for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which funds activities including building, buying, and renovating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. 
  • $50 million for Housing and Urban Development Veterans Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
  • $218 million to Hawaii for roads, bridges, buses and bike paths consistent with the funding levels established in the transportation authorization bill Congress adopted last year.
  • $525 million for TIGER Grants which fund critical infrastructure projects such as the Lihue Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Project on Kauai which got $13 million last year.

The bill also includes $5 million for Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grants, a program that provides financial assistance for Native Hawaiian families to obtain new homes, make renovations, build community facilities, and receive housing services, including counseling, financial literacy and other critical resources to address housing disparities.

The Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant was established under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act to help Native Hawaiian families.  Funds from this grant are administered by the State of Hawai‘i Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the agency charged with carrying out the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act.

Finally, this bill includes several improvements to housing and homelessness programs which Senator Schatz has introduced in bipartisan, standalone legislation.  That includes:

  • Fixing the formula which determines how Housing Opportunities for People with Aids funding goes out to states, consistent with S. 2668, a bill introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
  • Improving the Family Unification Program so that this low-income housing program is easier to use for states and youth aging out of foster care.  These changes are consistent with the bipartisan S. 2289, the Family Unification, Preservation, and Modernization Act of 2015, introduced with Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).