Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $47,220,892 in federal funding to support public housing and workforce development programs in 26 localities across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Job Plus Initiative and Public Housing Capital Fund programs.

“It’s important for every Virginian to have the opportunity to secure stable housing and employment,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased that these federal funds will help ensure more Virginians have access to affordable homes and upward mobility.”

The Jobs Plus Initiative program develops locally-based, job-driven approaches to advance employment outcomes and increase earnings for residents of public housing.

The Capital Fund provides federal funding for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments.

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Jobs Plus Program are listed here: 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$2,300,000

 

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding from the Capital Fund are listed here:

 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

ABINGDON

ALEXANDRIA

Abingdon Redevelopment & Housing Authority

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$70,754

$1,907,939

BRISTOL

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,998

CHARLOTTESVILLE

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$960,618

CHESAPEAKE

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,261,470

COEBURN

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$459,136

DANVILLE

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,202,845

DUFFIELD

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$219,382

FRANKLIN

Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$168,040

HAMPTON

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,583,634

HOPEWELL

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$888,611

JONESVILLE

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$146,191

LEBANON

Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority

$615,483

LYNCHBURG

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$926,987

MARION

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$573,088

NEWPORT NEWS

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$4,295,157

NORFOLK

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$7,978,621

NORTON

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$515,977

PETERSBURG

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$930,090

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,628,891

RICHMOND

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$11,547,123

ROANOKE

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,702,478

SUFFOLK

Suffolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,161,115

WAYNESBORO

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$453,879

WILLIAMSBURG

Williamsburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$263,260

WYTHEVILLE

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$529,125

 

 

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,191,750 in federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help seven Virginia tribes develop and manage affordable housing.

“We’re pleased to announce this funding to expand access to low-income housing for Virginia’s tribes,” the Senators said. “These grants will help ensure these communities have a safe and affordable place to live.”

The tribes that received funding are listed below:

 Location                                           Recipient                                                      Amount

Providence Forge                     Chickahominy Indian Tribe                                   $265,991

Providence Forge                     Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division           $74,594

Amherst                                 Monacan Indian Nation                                         $372,748

Suffolk                                   Nansemond Indian Tribe                                       $150,023

King William                           Pamunkey Indian Tribe                                          $74,594

Indian Neck                            Rappahannock Tribe, Inc.                                      $74,594

King William                           Upper Mattaponi Tribe                                           $179,206

 

The grant was awarded through HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program which provides grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages for the development and operation of affordable housing.

In 2018, a bipartisan Warner and Kaine bill to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes was signed into law. The legislation granted these six Virginia tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government, allowing the tribes to compete for grants only open to federally recognized tribes.

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WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,056,299 in federal funding to support the development of 11 housing units in Frederick County to provide affordable housing to lower-income elderly households. The funding, available through the Section 202 program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will allow older adults to live independently while also receiving supportive services.

“We are pleased that these federal funds will provide support for affordable housing in Frederick County,” said the Senators. “These new housing units will help improve the quality of life for older adults in the community.”

The Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program provides capital advances to finance the development of housing for low-income elderly residents. The program expands the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for the elderly such as cleaning, cooking, and transportation.

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WASHINGTON – Led by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), today Democrats on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee sent a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mark Calabria and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with a series of questions regarding the Trump Administration’s plans to return Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private ownership.  

“The GSEs play a critical role in the U.S. housing market, providing the necessary liquidity and stability that makes the U.S. mortgage market the most dependable market in the world. This year the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a number of hearings on our housing finance system. The message was clear – any reform must strengthen our housing finance system and provide the tools to address the nation’s affordable housing crisis,” wrote the Senators.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by Ranking Member Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Said the Senators, “As members concerned with housing access and affordability, and the continued success of the secondary mortgage market, we request additional, detailed information regarding the Administration’s plans to reform these entities and the analysis that supports these plans. Without additional information, Congress will be unable to fulfill its proper oversight role, or otherwise design policies to protect critical access and affordability to homeownership and rental housing.”

The Senators requested responses to a variety of questions, including the Administration’s timeline for releasing the entities and how proposed changes could impact affordable homeownership:

  • Please explain, in detail, the timeline, or benchmarks, by which the Administration intends to adopt reforms and release the GSEs from conservatorship.  If multiple timelines are being considered, please provide all potential scenarios.
  • Please explain, in detail, any and all administrative reforms that you believe are necessary at the GSEs prior to their release from conservatorship, and how those reforms fulfill the GSEs’ charter obligations.
  • Would you consider releasing the GSEs prior to full implementation of the enumerated reforms?  If so, please provide your reasoning and under what circumstances you would considering doing so.  
  • Please explain, in detail, what reforms or policy changes may be adopted as part of an amendment to the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement (PSPA).  What, if anything, prevents future modifications to these changes?
  • Do you intend to maintain a line of credit with the Treasury outside of conservatorship through the PSPAs?  Would you maintain the current dollar amount of the line of credit or adjust to some other amount?  What, if anything, prevents removing that line of credit in the future?
  • Please explain, in detail, the legal basis for using a consent agreement to accelerate the release of the GSEs from conservatorship.  Under what conditions does the Administration plan to use the consent agreement to further the release of the GSEs from conservatorship, and what reforms or restrictions would be considered under this agreement?
  • What, if anything, prevents a future modification to the consent agreement?
  • What capital levels do you believe would be necessary for purposes of releasing the GSEs from conservatorship?
  • Would you consider releasing the GSEs from conservatorship before they have built the level of capital you require of them as their regulator?   If so, please explain why you would release them prior to having met their regulatory capital requirements? 
  • How does the Administration plan to raise the level of capital that FHFA deems necessary and on what timeline?  Would the Administration consider releasing the GSEs from conservatorship prior to achieving a threshold capital level, and if so, what level would that be?
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make valuable contributions to the housing market, in part due to investments made over the past decade. Would the Administration consider reducing the value that the GSEs provide to American taxpayers in order to expedite the release of the GSEs from conservatorship?
  • Would the Administration consider changing the repayment requirements of the existing PSPA? If so, how?
  • Does the Administration plan to reduce the GSEs’ footprint?  If so, what specific product lines and services would see an increase in price or be curtailed or eliminated at the GSEs?  What is the statutory authority for such a plan?  Please provide any models or assessment that FHFA has conducted to analyze the impact of these changes on prospective homeowners, existing homeowners, renters, and the cost and availability of credit across mortgage products. 
  • Do you believe that the GSEs will provide a smaller cross-subsidy in the mortgage market if their role is reduced, as you propose?  If not, how would they be able to provide the same level of cross-subsidy and nationwide access in both the single-family and multifamily markets in a reduced role?  If so, what do you propose to do administratively to ensure that they are still able to provide as much support for low- and moderate-income lending and access to credit among underserved communities?
  • Will the GSEs continue to contribute annually to the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund throughout any transition to your desired end state?  Under what circumstances would you potentially consider allocations to these trust funds as preventing the GSEs from completing a capital restoration plan?  Do you expect to deem either GSE as “undercapitalized”?
  • Does the Administration intend to undertake a new rulemaking for the Enterprise Housing Goals for mortgages purchased by the GSEs?  Will the scope of that rulemaking exceed the scope of the previous rulemaking, which recalibrated numerical purchase goals but did not alter the fundamental structure of the goals?
  • Will the Administration seek to amend the Duty to Serve rule, or otherwise amend the types of products and services the Enterprises may offer to meet their Duty to Serve requirements?
  • What analysis has the Administration undertaken to understand the impact of any reforms or changes in product offerings or pricing to the profitability of the GSEs?  What analysis has it performed to understand the impact of such changes on housing affordability, g-fees, or potential market disruptions across all segments of borrowers?  What analysis has it done on the impact of such changes on the production of multifamily properties?
  • What analysis has the Administration performed to model specific effects of any reforms or changes in product offerings or pricing on access to mortgage credit for low- and moderate-income homebuyers and renters; first time homebuyers; or borrowers of color? Please explain in detail any assumptions underlying your analysis.  If you have not conducted such an analysis, please explain how you could move forward on any of the proposed provisions without such calculation while also fulfilling the GSEs’ statutory mandates to “provide ongoing assistance to the secondary market for residential mortgages (including activities related to mortgages on housing for low- and moderate-income families involving a reasonable economic return that may be less than the return earned on other activities) by increasing the liquidity of mortgage investments and improving the distribution of investment capital available for residential mortgage financing” and “promote access to mortgage credit throughout the Nation (including central cities, rural areas, and underserved areas).” 
  • Please describe any concerns raised by investors with releasing the GSEs from conservatorship without an indefinite government backstop and any response you might have to those concerns. 
  • Please provide FHFA’s analysis of impacts on mortgage costs and the To-Be-Announced market from releasing the GSEs from conservatorship or any other changes to the GSEs’ current status without a line of credit or other catastrophic backstop.  
  • Will the Administration conduct a fair housing analysis of all proposed policy changes?  If not, why not? Has the Administration already conducted such an analysis of its proposed policy changes?

“As housing finance reform discussions continue we believe that it is critical to maintain a system that provides certainty for borrowers, renters, investors, and lenders; that can be sustained in all economic conditions; and that continues to support working families as they buy and rent homes and build wealth. Any contemplated reforms should be thoughtful and focused on maintaining access to credit for creditworthy home buyers and renters in every community,” noted the Senators.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded Congressional passage of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 86-8, sending the legislation to the President’s desk for signature, Sen. Warner released the following statement:

“I’ve heard gut-wrenching stories from servicemembers and their families about being subjected to dangerous living conditions in privatized military housing. I’ve walked through these homes in communities across the Commonwealth and have seen firsthand mold and insect-infested conditions that no one should ever be exposed to. Military families shouldn’t have to worry that their homes might make their families sick, nor should they feel powerless when facing companies charged with providing high-quality housing. I’m proud to have secured large portions of my legislation within this bill to provide greater oversight over military housing and to live up to the promises we’ve made to our men and women in uniform.

“I’m also pleased that today’s bill provides a 3.1 percent pay raise for our military and repeals the unjust tax on more than 4,000 military widows in Virginia, which has prevented them from receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. This bipartisan bill also guarantees 12 weeks of paid parental leave for Virginia’s 170,000 federal civilian employees, which will serve as an important recruitment and retention tool as more and more existing federal workers become eligible for retirement. Additionally, with the passage of today’s bill we are able to provide consistent funding to support our world-class shipbuilding fleet in Hampton Roads. This includes $11 billion for ship repair and the restoration of mid-life refueling for the USS Truman (CVN 75). It also provides funding to execute the Navy’s recently announced block buy of Virginia-class submarines, which will generate 25,000 jobs and save billions in taxpayer dollars. Collectively, these essential shipbuilding programs will support thousands of jobs in the region and help advance our nation’s security and military readiness.

“I also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the bipartisan Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) to provide our intelligence community with the resources they need to protect our country from emerging threats from countries such as China, Russia, and North Korea. The IAA also includes much-needed reforms to modernize our antiquated security clearance process to make sure we have the personnel we need to tackle emerging cyber and technology threats. While we’ve substantially reduced the background investigation backlog to under 300,000, down from 725,000, this bill includes many of my provisions to establish a vetting system that reflects today’s threats, supports our mobile workforce and capitalizes on modern technology.”

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has fought to improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, introducing the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act to make much-needed reforms to privatized military housing. After pushing Congressional negotiators to protect these vital military housing provisions from the NDAA that passed earlier this year in the Senate, Sen. Warner successfully secured large portions of his legislation in this annual defense bill.

In March, Sen. Warner joined then-Secretary of the Army, now-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in visiting Fort Belvoir for a private tour and roundtable discussion to hear directly from military families about their experiences with military housing. Sen. Warner has also met with military families in Norfolk and at Fort Lee. To keep up the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the overall privatized housing program by reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As a strong advocate of Virginia’s defense and shipbuilding community, Sen. Warner has supported a block buy of aircraft carriers, saving billions in taxpayer dollars, and pushed for robust funding for shipbuilding and ship-repair in the annual defense bill. In December 2017, Sen. Warner joined 16 Senators in a letter to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to support a block buy. Last week, Sen. Warner praised the Navy’s block buy of nine Virginia-class submarines, poised to create 25,000 jobs in Hampton Roads, that was authorized in today’s defense bill package.

As Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner also successfully pushed for the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, to ensure the intelligence community is postured to effectively address the growing array of threats to our national security. This includes provisions Sen. Warner sponsored to make the security clearance system simpler and more effective, including demanding plans to reduce the number of security “tiers,” creating an electronic portal for applicants to track their progress, and much more. The broader defense bill also carries a provision providing twelve weeks of paid parental leave to civilian federal employees. The IAA included an amendment offered by Senator Warner that would have provided a similar benefit to intelligence community employees.

Additionally, the final defense bill prevents the Trump Administration from merging the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with the General Services Administration (GSA) without first providing Congress and the public transparency on the rationale behind the move, backed by sound, independent analysis of the potential costs and benefits. This mirrors an effort pushed by Sen. Warner to prevent the federal workforce from being subjected to continued political attacks and increased political interference by the Trump Administration. Also included in the legislation is a provision led by Sen. Warner to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who have to relocate for work.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $8,288,283 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing in Richmond and Suffolk. This funding, from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was awarded through four grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

“We are glad to see this federal funding go towards supporting access to decent and reasonably-priced housing in Richmond and Suffolk,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing both of these cities put these funds to use and help those with the greatest need.”

The funding will be awarded as below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons:     

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$4,462,031

Suffolk

$459,389

The HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program provides formula grants to states and localities to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership as well as providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,455,440

Suffolk

$348,260


The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides funding to engage homeless individuals and families living on the street, improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families, and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$376,954

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides states and localities with resources and incentives to devise long-term comprehensive strategies for meeting the housing needs of low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. It is the only federal program dedicated to the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,186,209


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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $779,300 in federal grants to improve the conditions of public housing units in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. The funding was awarded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Virginians deserve to feel safe in their homes,” the Senators said. “We applaud this federal funding that will strengthen the well-being and security of these communities.”

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $249,300 for security cameras and fencing at the Swanson Homes and Seaboard Square I and II developments to strengthen security and monitoring.

The Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $530,000 to conduct lead-based paint risk assessments, inspections, abatement, interim controls, and clearance examinations. HUD is awarding grants to 38 public housing agencies across the country to identify and eliminate lead-based paint hazards in public housing units.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Mark Esper, President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, at Warner’s office in Washington, D.C.  In the meeting, Sen. Warner emphasized the need to continue improving conditions in private military housing. Warner and Esper have worked closely on this issue in the wake of a Reuters investigation that found hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States, including military families living in homes with persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations.

“I’ve made it very clear to Secretary Esper that reforming the unacceptable conditions in military housing must be a top priority for the Department of Defense,” said Sen. Warner. “During his tenure as Secretary of the Army, we’ve developed a strong working relationship. If he is confirmed, I plan to continue working with Secretary Esper to solve this crisis and make sure our military families receive safe housing and the respect they deserve.”

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has fought to improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families. In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined Secretary Esper in visiting Fort Belvoir for a private tour and roundtable discussion to hear directly from military families about their experiences with military housing. Warner has also met with military families in Norfolk and at Fort Lee. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

Sen. Warner has also introduced legislation to reform the system, the Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act. The text of this legislation was largely incorporated into the annual defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which recently passed the Senate. This includes requiring the services to establish standard health and environmental credentials for companies providing mold assessments, remediation and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies; ensuring that tenants have access to companies’ electronic work order systems so they can track the progress of their maintenance requests; and enabling the withholding of incentive fees and rents when landlords fail to remedy hazards. In addition, the NDAA includes a Tenant Bill of Rights, which outlines much-needed protections for servicemembers and their families, and obligations from the private housing companies and the military services.

Dr. Esper, a native of Uniontown, PA, has served as Secretary of the Army since November 2017. He also served as the Acting Secretary of Defense from June 24, 2019, to July 15, 2019. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a veteran of the Gulf War, where he earned a bronze star for his actions in combat. After 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, Esper retired from the U.S. Army in 2007. He has held a number of government positions in the executive and legislative branches, including an appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy during the George W. Bush Administration.

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $40,942,352 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block, Emergency Solutions, HOME, HOPWA, and Housing Trust Fund grant programs.

“Virginia families deserve access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that this federal funding will provide people across the Commonwealth with opportunities to improve their living conditions.”

The funding will be awarded as shown below:

The Community Development Block (CDBG) Grants program provides annual grants to state and local governments to develop communities by expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans and providing decent housing and a suitable living environment. The following will receive CDBG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 1,027,042

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 1,345,258

BRISTOL                               $ 257,838

PETERSBURG                      $ 617,397

VIRGINIA                             $ 18,152,427

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to help people regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.  The ESG program also provides funding for improving both the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters. The following will receive ESG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 2,885,391

The HOME program works to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to support housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. The following will receive HOME funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 535,017

VIRGINIA                             $ 9,890,363

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 712,272

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to state and local governments, and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income Americans medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. The following will receive HOPWA funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 1,087,223

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is an affordable housing program that complements existing efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for low-income households, including homeless families. The following will receive HTF funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 4,432,124

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“This year’s annual defense bill takes a bipartisan approach towards meeting our national security challenges and better supporting our servicemembers and their families. For too long, military families have been dealing with problems like mice, rodents, and mold, among other hazards in military housing. I’m pleased that this bill includes our legislation to improve oversight over the companies providing housing, including provisions establishing common credentials for environmental and health inspectors and authorizing the withholding of rental payments and incentive fees when these companies fail to perform. By improving accountability and oversight over military housing, we can ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need,” said Sen. Warner.

The base text of the defense bill includes large portions of Sen. Warner’s Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, legislation that strengthens accountability and oversight in privatized military housing following reports of hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States. The bill also includes a Tenant Bill of Rights, which outlines much-needed protections for servicemembers and their families, and obligations from the private housing companies and the military services.

“This year’s defense bill also advances a number of priorities critical to our servicemembers, as well as to the men and women in Virginia’s shipbuilding industry. I’m also proud to report that this bill authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for our servicemembers. In addition, the NDAA would provide for nearly $420 million to fund 12 military construction projects across the Commonwealth and includes robust funding for the Virginia-class submarine and carrier programs. And while the Trump Administration thankfully reversed its plan to retire the USS Truman decades ahead of schedule, this bill will require the Navy to continue with the nuclear refueling and complex overhaul needed to make sure the Truman can continue supporting the national security mission,” continued Sen. Warner.

The NDAA also includes language from Sen. Warner’s bill to provide financial relief for civilian federal employees so that they’re not hit with unexpected costs for relocating to a new duty station or returning home after completing their service. This additional cost on moving expenses is a result of the 2017 Republican tax bill, which eliminated the deduction for job-related moving costs, as well as the exclusion for reimbursements or in-kind contributions made by employers to cover the cost of moving. While the law excluded active-duty service members, it placed a burden on many federal civilian workers, like military civilian employees, law enforcement and military teachers, who are required to relocate for work, and who, as a result, have extra money withheld to cover the taxes on moving-expense “income” following the changes in the law. The NDAA now ensures that all federal employees who qualify to have their moving costs reimbursed by the government are also repaid for the taxes owed on relocation reimbursements.

The defense bill also includes several provisions by Sen. Warner to overhaul the antiquated security clearance process. And with the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, Congress takes key steps to modernize the nation’s security clearance process by reducing the background investigation inventory and bringing greater accountability to the system. In addition, the legislation provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to intelligence personnel.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has introduced several amendments to the annual defense authorization bill, including one that would build on his legislation, Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, most of which was included in the base text, by adding additional measures to improve privatized military housing.

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing in bases across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has advocated on behalf of servicemembers and their families, and recently introduced an amendment to establish an advisory group to help the Department of Defense strengthen accountability and oversight in military housing. The amendment was offered in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislative vehicle that provides support for our servicemembers and sets the national security priorities for the United States.

“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much for this country. That’s why we’ve got to make things right for military families who, too often, have been subjected to subpar and sometimes dangerous living conditions. This includes making sure that the health and well-being of our nation’s servicemembers and their families are part of our national security priorities,” said Sen. Warner.

The amendment would also require the Secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, and Army to issue standard mold assessments, remediation’s and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Sen. Warner in introducing the amendment, which comes on the heels of Sen. Warner’s letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish an advisory group to address the prevalent health and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.

To protect U.S. innovation and combat technology threats, Sen. Warner filed a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to establish an Office of Critical Technologies within the Executive Office of the President. The office would be responsible for coordinating a whole-of-government approach to protect the U.S. from state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. The amendment is based on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Rubio that would combat technology threats from China. Sen. Warner also introduced a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Crapo to strengthen the intelligence support to protect our supply chain from growing adversary threats.

“In the 20th century, the U.S. pioneered many groundbreaking technological advancements, and today, countries like China are using every tool in their arsenal to try to diminish U.S. leadership, set the standards for technologies like 5G, and dominate key technologies. In order to confront this challenge, the United States must push forward a coherent strategy to protect our technological edge and preserve American leadership,” continued Sen. Warner.

In a move to further defend national security and respond to emerging cyber-threats, Sen. Warner also introduced a series of amendments that would revamp the security clearance process, assess cyber threat detection and encourage the DoD to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify new spectrum for reallocation for 5G services.

“To ensure the U.S. can hire trusted professionals to tackle the emerging threats in cyber and technology, we must modernize our outdated security clearance system. While we’ve already seen an encouraging drop in individuals waiting on a background check, there is still more work to be done,” concluded Sen. Warner. 

The security clearance reform language is based on legislation introduced by Vice Chair Warner, and unanimously approved in the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020. Text for the cyber threat assessment amendment can be found here.

Sen. Warner also introduced amendments to improve the quality in information submitted in background investigation requests, ensure DoD has the funding flexibility to perform the personnel vetting mission, and ensure the new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency adequately protects the millions of pieces of personally identifiable information it will hold as the government’s primary investigative service provider.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

 Following a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety, and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States, Sen. Warner has been advocating on behalf of servicemembers and their families to address concerns with military housing, including health hazards. The Senate legislation includes provisions from Sen. Warner’s bill that would increase accountability and oversight over privatized housing companies, empower servicemembers and their families when tackling housing disputes with private companies, and instate new quality assurance and quality control measures. The bill also establishes a “Tenant Bill of Rights” to ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need and to ensure this does not happen again. 

“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.” 

Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.

As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.

The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.

###

WASHINGTON – As part of his ongoing fight for military families facing hazardous living conditions, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today urged the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish a temporary housing advisory group to assist the military services in addressing widespread health hazards in private military housing. In a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan, Sen. Warner emphasized the need for an independent group capable of providing neutral analysis and advice to the department in order to develop long-term solutions for servicemembers and military families. 

“As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense,” wrote Sen. Warner. “Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process.” 

Stressing the need to reopen and renegotiate 50-year agreements between the services and the military housing companies, Sen. Warner urged Acting Secretary Shanahan to convene a housing advisory group composed of 10-15 subject-matter experts tasked with analyzing the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative as well as the agreements between the private companies and military services. This group would provide recommendations related to housing, real estate, public health, and environmental hazards in order to ensure that military families do not continue to be subjected to health threats, including persistent mold blooms, water leaks, and rodent and insect infestations. 

The letter also states that, once established, the advisory group should ensure that any agreements between the services and private companies codify the following: 

  • Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing; 
  • Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;
  • Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 
  • Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;
  • Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and
  • Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms.

This letter is the latest in a series of multifaceted efforts by Sen. Warner to ensure that military families in Virginia and throughout the nation can count on high-quality housing free of health, safety, and environmental hazards. On Monday, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company on how they intend to tackle the deplorable health hazards documented by military families. Recently, Sen. Warner hosted roundtables in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir with affected families who were upset by conditions in their homes and frustrated about the lack of response from the military services and their respective housing companies. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act – legislation that would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, prohibit contractors from charging certain fees, and require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

May 14, 2019

 

The Honorable Patrick M. Shanahan

Acting Secretary of Defense

U.S. Department of Defense

1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

 

Dear Acting Secretary Shanahan:

 

I write today to strongly encourage the Department of Defense to convene a temporary housing advisory group of outside experts to assist you in determining the best long-term solutions for addressing pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the military services. This group would analyze the current Military Housing Privatization Initiative, established in 1996, as well as the agreements between the military services and the private companies, and offer recommendations to strengthen accountability and improve the quality of housing.     

 

I have been deeply concerned about health hazards, including mold, lead, and rodent infestations in private military housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the country. The Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force have almost 12,000 privatized homes throughout the Hampton Roads region at Little Creek, Fort Story, Naval Station Norfolk, Oceana, and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, as well at Wallops, Dahlgren, Quantico, Fort Belvoir, and Fort Lee. Lincoln Military Housing, Clark Realty Capital, Balfour Beatty Communities, and Hunt Military Communities currently manage these units.

 

For this reason, I introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act with Senators Dianne Feinstein, Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, to begin reforming the privatized housing program to ensure that our servicemembers have safe, secure and high-quality housing. This legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, and prohibit the private companies from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees for poor performance.

 

While I am glad to see that the military services are taking some steps to address these hazards, including establishing call centers for current and former housing residents to address housing related environmental hazards, and establishing a tenant bill of rights, systematic change must occur in the program. These 50-year agreements between the military services and the military housing companies must be re-opened and renegotiated to tackle the problems that have been identified.   

 

As the military services determine the best path forward, multiple perspectives and deep expertise in housing, state and local housing regulations, and environmental hazards are necessary to determine next steps and make stronger agreements. Clearly, these areas are not the core expertise of the Pentagon leadership, nor are they part of a military leader’s career trajectory. Housing is not a core mission of the Department of Defense.

 

Therefore, I urge you to establish a temporary advisory group for the Department of Defense – a high-level group of independent experts, well-versed in these issues who can assist the department in this process. This group would include approximately 10-15 subject matter experts from outside of government and from other government agencies, who would provide analysis and neutral advice related to housing, real estate, public health and environmental hazards. In addition, advocates for the servicemembers and their families should be included in this group.

 

The Department of Defense has a long history of using advisory groups to provide independent and informed advice, such as the Defense Innovation Board, Defense Science Board, Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, and the Military Family Readiness Council.    

In addition to advising the DoD on broader policy, the advisory group would need to ensure that agreements between the military services and the private companies codify the following:

 

•          Ensure that independent and credentialed housing inspectors provide regular inspections and oversight at the housing units to ensure safe, secure and high-quality housing;

•          Ensure that companies are adhering to state, local and regulatory laws related to environmental hazards. If these standards have not been determined by these authorities, DoD should establish standards in coordination with the EPA, and require that these companies adhere to standards for these hazards, including mold;

•          Require these companies to utilize appropriately credentialed and/or skilled contractors for health, safety and environmental problems across the services; 

•          Ensure that tenants have direct access to a true housing advocate, who assists the servicemembers and their families;

•          Ensure there exists an independent, third-party arbiter who can assist in resolving disputes between the tenants and the companies in a fair and transparent manner; and

•          Determine penalties when these companies fail to provide safe and healthy housing, whether that be withholding rent payments, incentive fees, cancelling the contracts or alternative mechanisms. 

 

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I am happy to discuss this issue further. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria applauded the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s announcement of $60,000,000 in federal funding through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation program to support the revitalization of struggling housing projects in Newport News and Norfolk. These two Virginia cities were among just four localities nationwide chosen to receive HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants. The funding will allow Newport News and Norfolk to invest in the redevelopment of their public or HUD-assisted housing.  

“This is a big win to ensure safe, affordable housing for underserved communities in Hampton Roads,” the Senators and Representatives said. “We are thrilled HUD selected Virginia for these grants that will allow Newport News and Norfolk to put their redevelopment plans into action so they can start making critical public housing improvements for residents.”

"We are more than excited to have been selected from among 28 applicants nationwide and to have this opportunity to jump-start our revitalization plan.  The changes we will see will impact current residents and future generations," said Karen R. Wilds, Executive Director of the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

·         Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Newport News will receive $30,000,000.

·         Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the City of Norfolk will receive $30,000,000.

HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Implementation grants support underserved communities that have undergone a local planning process and are ready to implement their “Transformation Plan” to redevelop distressed public or HUD-assisted housing and neighborhoods.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) wrote today to four private military housing companies in order to request strategies from each company on how they plan to tackle the deplorable health hazards documented by military families in Virginia and throughout the nation. These letters come two weeks after roundtables in Norfolk and Fort Lee, where Sen. Warner spoke with a housing company, military officials, and affected families who were upset by conditions in their homes and frustrated about the lack of response from their respective housing companies.

 Letters were addressed to the heads of Lincoln Property Company, which provides 36,000 housing units for military families nationwide, including 5,700 units for Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers stationed at Dahlgren, Wallops, Quantico, and throughout Hampton Roads; Balfour Beatty CommunitiesClark Realty Capital Companies, and Hunt Military Communities, which manage military homes for families stationed at Fort Belvoir, Fort Story, Fort Eustis, and Fort Lee; and Hunt Military Communities, which manages approximately 1,430 units at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

 “Numerous meetings and roundtables that my office has organized with servicemembers and their families, the military, and private companies have all highlighted a number of unacceptable problems in the Military Housing Privatization Initiative that must be addressed immediately,” wrote Sen. Warner. “The status quo cannot be allowed to continue.”

 In the letters, Sen. Warner requested that any plan of action address the following issues reported at private military housing by servicemembers and their families:

  • Lack of adequate credentials/expertise by maintenance providers hired by private military companies. These providers are frequently not qualified and/or certified to fix health hazards and other problems, which can result in superficial fixes or outright failures to fix these hazards.
  • Excessive fees charged to military families in order to remediate hazards. Families facing these fees allege that they have little to no recourse to challenge the charges, even when they are not at fault. Moreover, some families believe that they have no ability to demand compensation from the companies when their furnishings are ruined due to leaks or mold; or when inadequate and unsafe housing forces them to relocate or stay at hotels. 
  • Air quality issues, including the presence of mold and mold spores. As a result of hazards, many families have reported allergic and/or respiratory reactions to these hazards; some families even described experiencing lead and carbon monoxide poisonings.
  • Inadequate communication and transparency between servicemembers and the private companies about health hazards in homes, including lead and mold, the status of work orders, and the resolution of hazards.

Sen. Warner also requested that, in crafting a plan, military housing companies consider the following questions:

  • How will you improve your communication with tenants, so that the tenants and the military services have greater transparency regarding the safety of their homes, beginning at move-in, as well as the status of work orders? Will you consider using an electronic system, with a mobile app, which would enable tenants, military service representatives and the companies to track work orders in real-time? 
  • How will you better resolve disputes between your company and the tenants themselves, whether related to disputes over damages, fees, or whether or not a problem has been adequately addressed? Will you consider creating a third-party, independent dispute resolution mechanism in coordination with the military services? 
  • Can you describe how you will improve your mold remediation standard operating procedures and other processes to improve air quality and reduce health hazards? Will you consider offering mold inspections, as well as air quality testing to residents, especially if suggested by a medical professional?  Given the absence of EPA and federal standards around mold and mold spores, will you work to implement clear standards, established by the military services to ensure healthy air quality?
  • And finally, how will you significantly improve the quality of military housing overall – at move-in and beyond – to ensure that families no longer struggle with mold, lead, rodent infestations, asbestos and more, so that we are not in this situation again in another seven years? 

In February, Sen. Warner introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act in response to a Reuters investigation that revealed health, safety, and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States. This legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold rent until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $43,460,812 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding, which will go to 26 municipalities across the Commonwealth, has been awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund.

“All Virginians deserve access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that this federal funding will help make a difference in communities across Virginia.”

HUD’s Capital Fund provides critical federal dollars to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in Virginia for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments.

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding are listed below:

 

City                                                          Virginia Housing Authority Recipient                                Amount

ABINGDON

Abingdon Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$65,816.00

ALEXANDRIA

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,877,154.00

BRISTOL

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$839,375.00

CHARLOTTESVILLE

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$874,956.00

CHESAPEAKE

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,094,151.00

COEBURN

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$427,005.00

DANVILLE

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,120,996.00

DUFFIELD

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$204,263.00

FRANKLIN

Franklin Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$155,253.00

HAMPTON

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,372,164.00

HOPEWELL

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$840,721.00

JONESVILLE

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$137,519.00

LEBANON

Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority

$573,099.00

LYNCHBURG

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$861,994.00

MARION

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$532,801.00

NEWPORT NEWS

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$4,053,812.00

NORFOLK

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$8,049,884.00

NORTON

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$479,901.00

PETERSBURG

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,076,902.00

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,922,459.00

RICHMOND

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$11,223,914.00

ROANOKE

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,425,178.00

SUFFOLK

Suffolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,080,297.00

WAYNESBORO

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$409,419.00

WILLIAMSBURG

Williamsburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$269,909.00

WYTHEVILLE

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$491,870.00

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) called on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act portions of an essential bill to address hazards in private military housing. The Senators introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act last month in response to a Reuters investigation that exposed health, safety and environmental hazards in privatized military housing throughout the United States.

“While we are pleased that the military services have realized the scope and severity of the problem, and have begun to circulate a ‘Resident Bill of Rights’ for servicemembers living in privatized housing, we strongly believe that Congress must enact legal protections for our military families and strengthen accountability mechanisms for these private companies,” the Senators wrote. 

They concluded, “We believe these reforms are necessary to ensure that contractors are responsive to servicemembers’ concerns, that military housing officials are exercising proper oversight, that servicemembers are empowered to leave any home they feel is unsafe for their family without fear of incurring a financial penalty, and, most importantly, for servicemembers and their families to live in safe and secure housing.”

Among other things, the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long advocated for servicemembers and military families. Last week, they filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. Sen. Warner also recently met with military families in Newport News to hear about their experiences living in privatized military housing, and Sen. Kaine recently toured privatized military housing near Naval Station Norfolk. Last month, the Senators also visited Fort Belvoir to hear from military families about their experiences with military housing.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Feinstein, and Harris, the letter was signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Jon Tester (D-MT). 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

April 1, 2019

 

The Honorable James Inhofe

Chairman

Senate Committee on Armed Services

Russell Senate Building, Room 228

 

The Honorable Jack Reed

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Armed Services

Russell Senate Building, Room 228

 

Dear Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed:

 

We write today to request that the Armed Services Committee include provisions of our legislation, entitled the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, to improve privatized military housing, in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

 

As you know, major problems with privatized military housing have surfaced since Reuters first published a series of articles last year. The Reuters articles, and hearings held by your committee, have revealed that many servicemembers and their families have been forced to live in homes with serious health, safety and environmental hazards, without sufficient recourse.

 

The contractors who operate privatized military housing have too often failed to properly remedy these hazards, or outright ignored servicemembers’ concerns. The military housing officials and installation commanders responsible for ensuring that our servicemembers have safe housing have frequently fallen well short of their charge.

 

While we are pleased that the military services have realized the scope and severity of the problem, and have begun to circulate a “Resident Bill of Rights” for servicemembers living in privatized housing, we strongly believe that Congress must enact legal protections for our military families and strengthen accountability mechanisms for these private companies.

 

To that end, our bill would:

 

1)      Require installation commanders to withhold payment of a servicemember’s basic allowance for housing (BAH) until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the servicemember concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the servicemember to leave the housing unit, the contractor will pay all relocation costs. 

 

2)      Prohibit payment of a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse servicemembers for damage to their private property caused by a hazard. 

 

3)      Require the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.

 

4)      Create standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across the services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.

 

5)      Require the DOD to establish an electronic system so that installation commanders and servicemembers can track and oversee work orders.

 

We believe these reforms are necessary to ensure that contractors are responsive to servicemembers’ concerns, that military housing officials are exercising proper oversight, that servicemembers are empowered to leave any home they feel is unsafe for their family without fear of incurring a financial penalty, and, most importantly, for servicemembers and their families to live in safe and secure housing.

 

We thank you for your leadership and we look forward to continuing to work on this vitally important issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), members of the Senate Committee on the Budget, filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. The amendment would protect the wellbeing of our nation’s military families by creating a reserve fund to address health hazards in military housing.

“Thousands of servicemembers call Virginia home, and their experiences with unsafe living conditions in housing are disturbing and unacceptable,” said Sen. Warner. “This amendment would ensure we can improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, whether they’re stationed here in the Commonwealth or across the country.” 

“Too many of our troops and their families are living in unacceptable conditions,” said Sen. Kaine. “When servicemembers are deployed, their families not only have to worry about their loved ones in harm’s way, but many of them have to endure added anxiety caused by lead, mold, or rodent infestations in their homes. Military families sacrifice so much to serve our nation – they shouldn’t have to tolerate horrible housing conditions, and our amendment is part of an effort to make sure they never have to again.” 

“Members of our military and their families in California and across the nation make sacrifices every day and their housing should be clean and free from health hazards,” said Sen. Harris.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this common-sense amendment to ensure our nation’s military families live in the safe and comfortable housing that they deserve.”  

The proposed amendment would reaffirm a commitment by Congress to address pervasive allegations of health hazards at privatized military housing under the budget resolution. The health hazard allegations include mold blooms, lead poisoning, cockroaches, rodent infestations, and water leaks.  

In February, Sens. Warner, Kaine and Harris introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27.

 The budget amendment text can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump on the direct and immediate consequences of the shutdown on housing security for more than four million households across the country. Both the short-term operations and long-term viability of affordable housing programs are dependent on Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance initiatives. An estimated 2.2 million low-income households are among those at risk of eviction, including housing for thousands of veterans, seniors, and people living with disabilities. 

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33).

“By now, virtually every American has either been hurt by this shutdown, or knows someone who has,” said Sen. Warner. “No one – particularly our most vulnerable citizens – should have to lose their home just so that the President can make a political point. This has to stop now. The President must allow the government to re-open before the damage gets even worse.” 

“Every day that the Trump shutdown continues, more Texas children and families are placed in immediate danger of losing their housing,” said Rep. Veasey. “Public servants and their families should never be faced with eviction from their homes. This must end. That’s why Senator Warner and I urged the President and Secretary Carson to put aside politics and consider the unjust burden on Americans across the country.”

Text of the letter can be found below. PDF of the letter is available here.

 

Dear President Trump:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the harmful impacts the current government shutdown is having on the ability of Americans to afford their homes. This partial shutdown is undermining both the short-term operations and long-term viability of our affordable housing programs that serve over four million Americans, the majority of whom are seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income. For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, we urge you to end the shutdown and protect the American people.

An immediate result of the shutdown is that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been forced to scramble to find funds to renew federal contracts for over 1,100 project-based rental assistance properties, housing tens of thousands of low-income renters, that have expired since the government shutdown began. Additional contracts will expire later in January and February, should the shutdown continue, as HUD does not have funding to renew contracts while the government is shut down. HUD proposes that private owners use their individual funding reserves, where available, to cover shortfalls. The longer the shutdown continues, the more untenable this guidance becomes.

Additionally, the shutdown will delay public housing authorities from receiving funding to help address pressing capital needs, such as fixing boilers and repairing leaking roofs. Funding is also dwindling for grants that support developmental projects and programs in local communities that depend on such funding to serve low-income families. Finally, the lapse in federal funding is curbing economic growth as more Americans are unable to purchase homes due to the Federal Housing Authority’s (FHA) delay in processing loans. 

The American people should not be used as leverage, or be held hostage, to fulfill a political agenda. The longer we extend the shutdown, the more harm will be done to seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, and other Americans who rely on these programs. We urge you to end this shutdown and provide immediate relief to Americans being impacted by this funding crisis. In these times of uncertainty and tension, we must continue to prioritize the American people. We owe it to the people we serve to choose their best interest over politics.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to address the lack of timely payments of housing stipends to veterans through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, causing undue financial burden on veterans and their families. Warner and Kaine explained that the failure to ensure prompt payments has caused some veterans to be displaced from their homes, hurt their ability to afford basic necessities, and prevented them from pursuing educational goals. 

“We are greatly concerned that the lack of prompt payments will cause some veterans to lose the opportunity to pursue their educational goals…Due to the delays, some veterans have been unable to afford basic necessities, and in some cases, even displaced from their homes. The VA’s inaction on this issue is causing far-reaching harm, not only to veterans, but to their families as well,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Veterans are one of our nation’s greatest assets; these payments were promised to them in order to ease the financial burden of higher education after military service, and they deserve to have those benefits delivered in a timely manner.”

“We urge you to quickly resolve these payment issues so that our veterans receive the benefits that they deserve,” the Senators concluded.

In the Senate, Warner and Kaine have prioritized efforts to ensure every transitioning servicemember has the tools needed for success. Last year, Warner and Kaine pushed for efforts to pass the expanded Post-9/11 GI Bill through the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act to ensure veterans receive the benefits they deserve.

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below: 

November 19, 2018

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Wilkie:

Many Virginians have contacted our offices expressing concern that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been unable to provide the timely delivery of housing stipends to veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The VA has pointed to information technology system problems coupled with a change in housing processing requirements mandated by recent legislation as the reason for the delays. Tens of thousands of Virginia veterans and their families rely on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

We are greatly concerned that the lack of prompt payments will cause some veterans to lose the opportunity to pursue their educational goals. Further, without the housing stipend payments, some veterans and their families are experiencing undue financial burdens. Due to the delays, some veterans have been unable to afford basic necessities, and in some cases, even displaced from their homes. The VA’s inaction on this issue is causing far-reaching harm, not only to veterans, but to their families as well. Veterans are one of our nation’s greatest assets; these payments were promised to them in order to ease the financial burden of higher education after military service, and they deserve to have those benefits delivered in a timely manner.

We are further troubled by this incident given your testimony to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee during your nomination hearing. During this process, you asserted that a priority of yours would be to improve the VA’s information technology systems. We are worried that this incident indicates that the VA has made little progress in this area since you became Secretary and may reduce the public’s confidence that the VA is able to process requests and claims in a fair and timely manner. Additionally, in your prepared statement for the Committee, you wrote that given Congress’ recent decision to increase the level of resources at the VA, there are “no more excuses” regarding the VA’s performance. The VA needs to provide solutions, not excuses, if our country is to uphold the commitment made to those who have sacrificed so much to protect and defend the nation.

One of our priorities in the Senate has been to provide every transitioning servicemember the tools needed for success in the civilian world. We are proud that last year Congress expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill program through the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act. If our veterans are to realize the promise of this legislation, the VA needs to implement the provisions of this bill efficiently and comprehensively. We urge you to quickly resolve these payment issues so that our veterans receive the benefits that they deserve.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We are ready to work with you to help provide veterans and their families affected by these payment delays the support needed to continue their education. In order to provide clarification for Virginians who may be experiencing delays in payments, we expect a timely response in the next few weeks.

 

Sincerely,