Affordable housing advocates have to fight tooth and nail to keep Hope VI. Each year, the Bush administration would cut budgetary support for the HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2007, then Congress would decide to keep the program, but cut its budget.
This year, Congress is taking the lead. In January, the House of Representatives approved HOPE VI—H.R. 3524—by a vote of 271 to 130. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), reauthorizes the program for seven years. A companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), has not yet reached the Senate floor.
The bill that passed the House adds a one-for-one replacement requirement to all units in existence as of Jan. 1, 2005, but gives developers four-and-a-half years to replace the demolished units (as opposed to one year). “There is a very legitimate concern that if you reduce the number of units identified as affordable housing units, you run the risk of having less affordable housing over time,” says Patrick Clancy, president and CEO of Boston-based nonprofit The Community Builders, an affordable developer. Of course, for these provisions to take effect, a companion bill needs to pass the Senate and then be signed by President Bush. Given the president's resistance to Hope VI—the administration regards it as a costly program for the results it gets—this is no given. “The chances of comprehensive Hope VI reauthorization legislation that charts new territory being approved this year is no better than 50/50, unfortunately,” says Conrad Egan, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, an affordable housing advocate group.