GAO: 160 Entities Involved in Housing Assistance

The Government Accountability Office
(GAO) has completed a study with results that most of us could have
anticipated.  After a review of a number
of agencies it found that, “Housing
assistance is fragmented across 160 programs and activities.

The
federal government plays a major role in providing housing assistance to
homebuyers and renters and to state and local governments.  It incurred about $170 billion in obligations
for federal assistances and forgone tax revenues in FY2010.  Current fiscal realities raise questions
about the efficiency of multiple housing programs and activities across federal
agencies with similar goals, products, and delivery systems.  The report assesses the (1) extent to which
there is overlap or fragmentation in selected housing programs, (2) federal
collaborative efforts, and (3) implications of consolidating selected housing
programs.

GAO
found overlaps in the services offered, geographic areas serviced, and products
offered.  For example, programs offered
by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of
Agriculture (USDA) through FHA and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) both provide
financing for development and rehabilitation of multifamily housing for low and
moderate income housing, as does the Department of Treasury.  HUD and Treasury have tax credit programs focused
in urban and suburban areas while RHS financed properties are more likely to be
in rural areas.  On the other hand, in
2009 FHA guaranteed more mortgage loans in rural areas than did either RHS or
the Veterans Administration (VA) which also guarantee such loans.

GAO
says that opportunities exist to increase collaboration and potentially realize
efficiencies among the agencies and two years ago it established an interagency
task force to evaluate the potential for coordinating or consolidating
homeownership loan programs at HUD, USDA, and VA.   HUD,
Treasury, and USDA have been working to consolidate and align requirements for
rental housing program.  Neither the task
force nor internal efforts have taken full advantage of opportunities to incorporate
key collaborative practices.

GAO
recognizes that consolidating programs across agencies carries implications for
clients, existing programs, personnel, portfolios, and information systems but
points to a suggestion the office made in 2000 that Congress consider requiring
USDA and HUD to look at merging some programs serving similar markets with similar
products and now certain aspects of the RHS and FHA homeownership programs are
showing evidence of growing similarity.

The
current statutory framework imposes additional challenges on the agencies’
ability to further consolidate similar programs. Thus, any evaluations of which
programs, products, systems, and processes to retain, revise, consolidate, or
eliminate would involve complex analyses, trade-offs, and difficult policy
decisions. The task force offers opportunities for these agencies to identify
potential areas for consolidation or greater coordination and which actions
would require statutory change.

Based
on the study GAO has made identical recommendations to HUD, the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB), USDA, Treasury, and the VA to step up activities
of the task force.  Specifically, OMB
called on them to consolidate and align requirements in multifamily programs,
document their efforts in annual and strategic plans, and identify specific
programs for consolidation.  

Article source: http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/09192012_housing_programs.asp

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