HEARTH Act Goes to the President for Signature

May 20, 2009

Yesterday both the House and Senate passed the final version of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act. This version includes the controversial HEARTH (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing) Act. The legislation has been sent to the President, who’s expected to sign it later today.

As those of you who’ve been following this blog know, I and many other advocates have serious concerns about the HEARTH Act–particularly its definition of homeless persons who will be eligible for assistance.

The definition is better than the one it replaces, but it will still exclude numerous homeless individuals and families. The legislation will also preserve, virtually intact, the old, even more restrictive definition used for the annual homeless counts.

I seriously doubt that Congress will want to revisit the issues any time soon. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. We need to keep building the case for expanding the eligibility criteria. We also, I think, need to try to form a broader coalition so that, next time round, all the major advocacy organizations are speaking with a single voice.


HEARTH Act Moves Forward – With Defects Intact

May 8, 2009

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act. Sounds like good news, doesn’t it?

Up to a point, it is. The legislation would make various changes in existing law–maybe not the best, but still pretty good–that would help prevent foreclosures, enhance mortgage credit availability and strengthen protections against mortgage fraud.

But the Senate folded the HEARTH Act into the legislation. As I and many others have said before, the HEARTH Act has serious defects.

  • The definition of “homeless” in the Act would perpetuate the exclusion of large groups of homeless individuals and families.
  • The Act would severely restrict the use of federal funds to help individuals and families newly recognized as homeless.
  • It would allow communities to continue ignoring most of these newly-recognized homeless people–and all those still not officially recognized–in their annual homeless counts.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has raised additional concerns about community decision-making,  flexibility and privacy.

The version of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act that passed in the House doesn’t include the HEARTH Act. So whether it’s in or out of the final bill will be subject to House-Senate negotiations.

Stay tuned …