Senate Passes Bipartisan Housing, Transportation Appropriations Bill
Chair Schatz: Bill Directly Addresses Housing Crisis, Improves Transportation Infrastructure, Provides Record Investment For Native Housing
WASHINGTON – With a vote of 82-15, the U.S. Senate today passed the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill. The government funding bill provides nearly $100 billion in discretionary funding.
“Our bill directly addresses America’s housing crisis by protecting affordable housing and homeless assistance programs that will help more than 10 million people. It also includes record level of investment in Native housing, and maintains funding to improve public transit, airports, railways, and roads across the country,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing. “As one of the first and only truly bipartisan appropriations bills to pass a chamber of Congress this year, it’s critical that the House consider and pass our bill so that these vital housing and transportation programs have the necessary funding to continuing serving communities in Hawai‘i and across the country.”
Highlights – Housing and Urban Development
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): The bill provides $70 billion in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development–to maintain all existing rental assistance while increasing efforts to reduce homelessness, connect people to both housing and health care, and remove barriers to housing opportunities and development, including unnecessary administrative burdens.
Reduces Homelessness and Improves Connections to Health Care: The bill provides $3.9 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, a $275 million increase above the fiscal year 2023 enacted level. In addition to sustaining investments for existing projects, homeless youth, and survivors of domestic violence, the bill provides:
- $100 million for permanent supportive housing, a $25 million increase over fiscal year 2023;
- $31 million for capacity-building grants and direct technical assistance to communities that are leveraging other funds, like Medicaid, to connect individuals experiencing homelessness to housing-related services and behavioral healthcare;
- $25 million for an inflationary adjustment for supportive service projects so that providers can hire and retain qualified personnel.
Lastly, the bill allows HUD to compete funds on a biennial basis, which will free up valuable staff time and resources to focus on service delivery rather than paperwork.
Increases the Supply of Affordable Housing: As communities across the nation continue to face a shortage of affordable homes, the bill makes critical investments to increase the supply of housing so that Americans can keep a roof over their head. The bill includes:
- $1.5 billion to sustain robust funding for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, the primary federal tool of state and local governments that produces affordable rental and owner-occupied housing. This level will lead to the construction of nearly 10,000 new rental and homebuyer units.
- $100 million for the second year of the “Yes In My Back Yard” grant program—a $15 million increase over fiscal year 2023. A significant contributor to the lack of housing supply and production is state and local zoning and land use laws and regulations that limit the number of units that can be built. These restrictions on development are driving up housing costs. While some communities have made progress in removing barriers to affordable housing production to keep up with market demand, the federal government should play a supporting role to strengthen these efforts and help jurisdictions increase their housing stock and lower housing costs.
- $4.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant formula program and Economic Development Initiatives that address a variety of local community development and affordable housing needs.
Expands Access to Housing Assistance for Tribes: Through increases to the Native American Housing Block Grant program, the sustained investment in the Tribal Housing and Related Agency Infrastructure Interagency Task Force, and improvements to Tribal participation in the Homeless Assistance Grants program, the bill will make significant progress to addressing the dire housing needs of Indian country, where residents are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty and nearly three times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions compared to other U.S. households.
Preserves and Strengthens Investments in Rental Assistance Programs: The bill maintains critical support for HUD rental assistance programs, which assist nearly 5 million vulnerable households—more than half of whom are elderly or people with disabilities. This includes
- $31.7 billion for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers, a $1.5 billion increase above fiscal year 2023, which includes funding to make 4,000 new incremental vouchers available to youth aging out of foster care and veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
- $15.79 billion for the project-based rental assistance program to renew housing contracts, of which $32.9 million is for rent adjustments to certain properties with health, safety, or operational deficiencies to improve property conditions for tenants.
- $8.9 billion to operate and address the capital needs of public housing, a $361 million increase above fiscal year 2023.
Increases Alignment and Flexibilities for Affordable Housing Programs: The thicket of statutory, regulatory, and procedural requirements for federal housing programs can undermine program results, lead to wasteful duplication, and require excessive time and resources from grantees.
To reduce the number of duplicative property inspections that occur when a project is funded by multiple federal housing programs, the bill supports efforts to improve inspection standards while also ensuring coordination across federal housing programs.
To more effectively use available housing choice vouchers in difficult rental markets, the bill authorizes a new pilot to allow up to 8 public housing authorities to use housing assistance payments for leasing-related expenses, like security and utility deposits.
To improve the speed and effectiveness of vouchers serving youth aging out of foster care, the bill streamlines the award process and authorizes the Secretary to waive certain requirements that are consistent obstacles to successful leasing.
Highlights – Transportation
Department of Transportation: The bill provides $28 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation—which includes significant new resources to ensure the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is able to maintain the safest, most efficient, and most complex air traffic control system in the world, the safety of our rail network, and capital investments to improve the state of good repair for our transit systems s.
RAISE Grants: The bill maintains critical funding for the RAISE Grants program established by Senator Murray to continue investing in transportation infrastructure projects that have a significant local or regional impact.
FAA Staffing and Modernization: The bill provides more than $20 billion for the FAA, an increase of more than $1 billion over fiscal year 2023. This includes:
- $12.7 billion for FAA operations, which will allow the FAA to continue its air traffic controller hiring surge by adding 1,800 new controllers, improve the condition and reliability of critical IT and telecommunications legacy systems, such as the NOTAM system, continue to improve aircraft certification as required by the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act (ACSAA), and accelerate the deployment of new entrants into the national airspace.
- A historic $3.4 billion for FAA facilities and equipment which will accelerate NextGen modernization. This includes $65.2 million for the critical Terminal Flight Data Manager and nearly $70 million for DataComm programs, which will improve the efficiency of air traffic control and lead to fewer flight delays. The bill also includes $33.2 million for airport ground surveillance, $340.8 million for telecommunications infrastructure, and $29.4 million for long-term improvements to the critical NOTAM system.
- $3.9 billion for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, including $502 million for supplemental AIP grants that can help reduce emissions at airports, build airport infrastructure necessary to support unleaded fuels and sustainable aviation fuels, and build resiliency at airports confronting climate change and worsening natural disasters.
Highways and Bridges: The bill provides $60 billion for Federal-aid Highways, consistent with IIJA authorized level of spending from the Highway Trust Fund, with an additional $2 billion for Highway Infrastructure Programs. This includes $45 million for Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, $150 million for PROTECT Grants, $1.1 billion for Bridges, $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System, $20 million for Scenic Byways, and other critical programs.
Rail Safety: A total of $3.4 billion is provided for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) This includes $2.5 billion for Amtrak to sustain operations, maintain a state of good repair, and safely get passengers to their destinations.
To address the rail safety deficiencies identified in the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment, the bill provides a $32 million increase for FRA’s safety and operations budget—meeting the request level for rail safety inspectors and research.
The bill also directs specific research requirements for: (1) wayside detection technology, operational alert thresholds, and rail carrier response protocols to inform and verify the technologies capabilities and establish industry-wide standards; and (2) long-train operational safety to evaluate equipment safety standards for brake systems and wheel performance to inform the development of continuous component monitoring.
The bill also increases funding for Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) emergency preparedness grants to $46.8 million and requires the agency to conduct research to improve the survivability of placards identifying hazardous materials on trains.
Transit Infrastructure: The bill provides $16.9 billion for the Federal Transit Administration—including $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants, a $240 million increase over fiscal year 2023, to continue investing in America’s transit infrastructure. It also includes $365.8 in budget authority—$184 million above fiscal year 2023—for Transit Investment Grants. This includes $161.8 million for Buses and Bus Facilities, $50 million for the Low- and No-emissions program; $45 million for areas of persistent poverty; and $43 million for ferry programs.
Maritime Administration: The bill provides $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration, $308 million above fiscal year 2023. This includes:
- $195.5 million for the United States Merchant Marine Academy, of which $70 million is for capital improvement projects, fully meeting the President’s budget request to train the next generation of mariners;
- $131 million for State Maritime Academies, of which $91.8 million is for the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel program;
- $103 million for the Title XI program to fund new loan guarantee applications in the pipeline;
- $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program; and
- $448 million to fund the Defense vessel programs at their authorized levels, including:
- $318 million for Maritime Security Program;
- $10 million for the Cable Security Fleet program; and
- $120 million for the Tanker Security Fleet program.
Expands Access to Transportation Infrastructure for Tribes: The bill includes flexibilities in the federal share for certain transit projects and provides $25 million to supplement the Rural and Tribal Infrastructure Advancement Pilot Program to deliver financial, legal, technical, and project development assistance in an effort to improve Tribal access to transportation infrastructure programs at the Department of Transportation.