For this weekly feature, the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) profiles a noteworthy bill that is currently going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: Senate Bill (SB) 1118, relating to programs operated by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to increase access to safe and affordable housing in this state.
Bill Author: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.; Senate District 27 (Cameron and Hidalgo Counties)
What does the bill do?
SB 1118 would codify in state statute the Amy Young Barrier Removal Program for people with disabilities. The program would help to alleviate the financial burden of making an individual’s home more accessible and accommodating by offering grants of no more than $20,000 to assist with the modifications. To be eligible for a grant, recipients would be (A) tenants, homeowners, or other members of a household in which a person with a disability lives, and (B) have an income that is no greater than 80% of the statewide income limits as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is currently overseen by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, but the oversight is based on agency rule rather than statutory directive.
The Amy Young Barrier Removal Program is named in memory of Amy Young, an advocate for people with disabilities who once worked for TCDD.
SB 1118 would also increase the annual allotment to the Texas Bootstrap Loan Program, a self-help housing construction program that provides families with very low-incomes an opportunity to purchase or refinance real property on which to build new housing or repair their existing homes through “sweat equity.”
Statement from the bill author, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.:
“As filed, SB 1118 strengthens the [housing] fund by doing the following things: updating the income threshold to 80% of area median income …, codifying the Amy Young Barrier Removal Program, and increasing the statutory amount allocated to Texas’ sweat equity program.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On April 23, SB 1118 received a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations and was left pending. When a bill is left pending, this means that the committee did not vote on the measure and it could be considered again at a future committee meeting. The video of the hearing can be found here and discussion on SB 1118 begins at the 19:07 mark.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were taken from the bill’s public hearing on April 23:
- Habitat for Humanity: Amy Parham, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Texas, testified in support of SB 1118. She suggested that Texas has one of the most unique and successful housing trust funds in the nation, and that the bill will help to capitalize on this model. Parham remarked that any cost concerns should be minimal, because over time the state’s implementation of the program would result in a return on investment from increased property tax revenue.
- Meals on Wheels: Charles Cloutman, the Vice President for Home Repair at Meals on Wheels Central Texas, shared his experience as one of the largest administrators of the Amy Young Program under its current iteration. Cloutman testified that codifying the program will make it more sustainable, accessible, and long-lasting for communities throughout Texas. He also advocated for an increase in the program’s funding and claimed that his organization alone could use all of the dollars that are currently allocated.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No opposition to the bill has been identified at this time.
- TCDD: Ashley Ford, TCDD Public Policy and Communications Specialist, provided testimony on the bill, stating that it would help provide Texans with disabilities a full range of accommodations and supports needed to live in their homes and communities. She argued that the need for accessible housing is as much an issue of poverty as it is of accessibility, as individuals with disabilities often lack the sufficient income to make these accessibility accommodations themselves.
How much will the bill cost?
According to the Legislative Budget Board, SB 1118 would cost the state approximately $9,445,424 through the biennium ending on August 31, 2021.
Is there a House companion to the bill?
No identical bill has been filed in the House.
For the latest information about where SB 1118 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, subscribe to TCDD eNews or follow us on Twitter.