The Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program is greatly expanded under a $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress.

Lawmakers more than tripled the number of public housing units able to take part in RAD from 60,000 to 185,000. The move allows the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to approve the applications that have been on the program’s long waiting list.

“That’s a good step forward,” says John Bohm, senior director of Congressional relations, public relations, and field operations at the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO). “We’re going to have to continue to monitor the success and progress of that program and HUD’s ability to process proposals to 185,000, but it’s a positive step.”

RAD is the centerpiece of HUD’s strategy to preserve at-risk public and assisted-housing developments. The first component, which was limited to 60,000 units, allows public housing and moderate rehabilitation properties to convert to long-term Sec. 8 rental assistance contracts. The second component allows Rent Supplement, Rental Assistance Payment, and Mod Rehab properties to convert tenant-based vouchers issued upon contract expiration or termination to project-based assistance.

Overall, it was important that the House and Senate were able to pass a fiscal 2015 spending plan and avoid the threat of delays and even a government shutdown. This gives members of NAHRO and others working with HUD certainty about the federal budget and their ability to continue to do their work, says Bohm.

While the expansion of RAD is seen as a bright spot for affordable housing, many other areas of the HUD budget were cut, putting more pressure on critical federal housing programs.

“We are disappointed that once again the HUD budget will underfund the project-based Sec. 8 account, requiring short funding to continue, thereby widening the gap that will need to be filled in fiscal 2016 to avoid payment disruptions,” says Denise Muha, executive director of the National Leased Housing Association. “We are also concerned with the inadequate amounts to fully fund the voucher program which through attrition has lost about 100,000 units. Further, the administrative fees are not sufficient to allow housing agencies to maintain compliance with HUD rules while attempting to maximize lease up.”

The plan includes a total of $35.6 billion for HUD programs, an increase of $2.8 billion above the fiscal 2014 enacted level. However, when accounting for a decrease in offsets related to Federal Housing Administration collections, the HUD portion of the bill is actually $90 million below last year, according to a House Appropriations Committee summary.

The omnibus bill provides:

  • $3 billion for the Community Development Block program grants, $30 million below the fiscal 2014 enacted level;
  • $900 million for the HOME program, $100 million less than in fiscal 2014;
  • $17.49 billion for the renewal of Sec. 8 vouchers, about $120 million more than in fiscal 2014, but $207 million less than the House bill and $233 million less than the Senate bill;
  • $9.73 billion is provided for project-based Sec. 8 compared to $9.9 billion in fiscal 2014; and
  • $75 million for HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, which is the same as the 2014 enacted level.

Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.