10 Jun Banker & Tradesman: Trump’s Proposal to Cut $11B from Housing Funds Is Wrong-Headed
Source: Banker & Tradesman
State and Local Efforts to Boost Affordable Housing Need Federal Partner
By Rachel Heller and Christopher Norris
As the executive directors of the leading statewide affordable housing advocacy organization and a local provider of affordable housing services, we were thrilled to see Congress provide a 10 percent increase in fiscal year 2018 and 2019 funding for programs that address the affordable housing crisis. This crisis has prevented families from achieving greater economic stability in our communities.
In metropolitan Boston, throughout Massachusetts and across the nation, far too many families – including low–income seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and families with children – struggle to keep roofs over their heads and experience homelessness. More families are renting than ever before, and our nation’s investments in affordable housing have not kept pace with the need. As a result, rents are increasing for people across all income levels, impacting people with the lowest incomes the hardest.
Despite the growing need, three out of every four families in need of housing assistance are turned away due to a lack of funding. Because “the rent eats first,” as sociologist and author of “Evicted” Matthew Desmond said, these families are forced to make harmful tradeoffs and too often forgo groceries, medical care and other basic needs in order to make rent every month. Every state and congressional district is directly impacted.
Trump’s Budget Threatens Housing Investments
While the commonwealth of Massachusetts has led the way on dedicating resources to affordable housing and homelessness prevention, and while many cities and towns have taken significant steps to address the housing challenges in their communities, state and local government cannot address this crisis without our federal partner.
Threats to affordable housing investments at the federal level remain, even with the significant increase in funding advocates secured last year. On June 4, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations passed its fiscal 2020 spending bill that provides Department of Housing and Urban Development programs with more than $13.4 billion above the president’s fiscal 2020 request and at least $5.9 billion above FY19 enacted levels. The House bill clearly sends a message that the president’s budget is not sufficient to address the affordable housing crisis and champions budget increases that will fund our community at the scale necessary.
In addition, the president has proposed harmful policies, such as prohibiting “mixed-status” immigrant families from living in public and other subsidized housing. This rule would put tens of thousands of people, including children, at an increased risk of homelessness. Slashing funding and instituting harmful rules is the wrong approach.
We need to continue to make a bold and sustained commitment to ensure that everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home.
When we invest in affordable homes, we invest in people, our communities, and America as a whole – from increased employment and economic mobility to improved health and better education.
Thousands of affordable homes across the state are built leveraging federal programs such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the HOME program. Thousands more families receive help finding safe and affordable homes from Metro Housing and our partner organizations through the Housing Choice Voucher Program, known as Section 8.
And thousands of families have stable homes through public housing. These programs, and many more federal investments in affordable housing, improve the lives of tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents each year.
Advocates, elected officials and concerned citizens joined together to participate in the Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action last week to bring more attention to the affordable housing crisis. We firmly believe that all people deserve a place to call home, and no one should be forced to give up food and basic healthcare to keep a roof over their heads.
Federal lawmakers should not only reject President Trump’s call to slash affordable housing investments but continue to expand these investments.
Rachel Heller is CEO of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. Christopher Norris is executive director of MetroHousing|Boston.