President Barack Obama released his FY14 budget request to Congress yesterday, which includes $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund on the mandatory side of the budget and the partial restoration of funding for some HUD programs.
As housing advocates know, the shortage of rental housing affordable to the lowest income Americans is a growing, and ongoing, problem. Our nation needs a federal housing policy that provides the path forward to ending homelessness and ensuring extremely low income people have access to the housing they need. Unfortunately, the past three budget cycles have amounted to a shifting of cuts around different HUD programs.
We cannot achieve our bold vision of ensuring that the lowest income Americans have access to decent, affordable housing if all of our energy as advocates is spent protecting existing programs from constant threat of cut. Meanwhile, 7.1 million low income families are without the affordable rental housing they need.
That is why we support funding the National Housing Trust Fund through revenue from modifications to the mortgage interest deduction. The National Housing Trust Fund is not meant to replace existing federal housing programs, like public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers, it is meant to augment them. The National Housing Trust Fund is the only federal program that would close the gap between the number of extremely low income renter households and the number of rental units affordable and available to them.
Building the housing necessary to end the rental shortage for those 7.1 million renter households may sound like a stretch, until you realize that the federal government has the resources necessary to do this- they just have to be used a smarter way. Our proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund uses existing housing resources, through modifications to the mortgage interest deduction, to direct revenue to the middle and lower income people who most need help with their housing costs. It’s a common sense solution to the nation’s greatest housing challenges. We hope you’ll support it.
When does a booming economy make a state’s residents worse-off? When rents far exceed what low-wage workers can afford to pay.
In Wyoming, where the oil and gas industry is growing rapidly, unemployment has decreased and remains below the national average, while homelessness has increased. According to the Casper Star-Tribune, while the population is increasing, the supply of housing is not, and with a county rental vacancy rate of 1.6% and just 600 public housing units provided by the public housing agency in Casper, low-wage workers will have a hard time finding the housing they need at rents they can afford.
High demand for rental units is a trend seen nationwide, according to this post on The Pump Handle, a public health blog. The article notes that the kind of housing instability seen in places like Wyoming has broad impacts on residents’ health and well-being.
What low-wage workers need is more housing affordable and available to them, not less. But as the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette explained last week, sequestration cuts to the HUD public housing budgets means fewer people will have access to the affordable housing they need.
Sequestration is already having a clear impact on low income renters across the U.S. As Fox 5 DC reported, the DC Housing Authority is already making tough choices to balance the cuts required by sequestration with the agency’s mission to house the lowest income residents of DC. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the housing agency in that city is in the process of cancelling vouchers recently issued to low income families, taking away vouchers from households that had not already found an apartment during the period allowed.
While sequestration will reduce the amount of affordable rental housing made available by the federal government, market conditions are the cause of the majority of the existing housing shortage. Affordable Housing Finance explains that severe housing cost burden- where low income renters pay 50% or more of their income for rent- is a problem in every state in the nation. As Progress Illinois explains, many in that state pay more than half their income for rent, leaving little left for other necessities like food or medical care.
The Washington Examiner takes us back to the nation’s capitol with a video on what the rental housing shortage means for those who are trying to escape homelessness. An article in the Stamford Advocate shows the struggle both low and moderate income households go through when attempting to rent in America’s highest-cost cities.
Sequestration is the talk of the town this week in Washington, D.C. and much of the rest of the country as we close in on the end of the first week in this new federal budget environment. The New York Times predicted early this week that people living in poverty would be hit hardest by sequestration, the ten years of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that started March 1.
The impacts of sequestration are already starting to show, with furlough notices being issued and cuts to overtime pay already begun.
Outside of D.C., communities are scrambling to cope with upcoming cuts. In Redondo Beach, CA, city leaders fear what cuts to Section 8 vouchers will do to the lowest income people in their city. Meanwhile, the local economy is dependent on defense contractors, who could also face reductions. Unemployment in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been since December 2008, but it remains to be seen what impact sequestration will have on the steady, if slow, growth the economy has seen over the last four years.
Has sequestration begun to impact your community? How has your local housing authority planned to deal with sequestration? Are you worried sequestration will cause you or a loved one to lose housing or a job? Let us know in the comments.
As housing advocates know, the impacts of sequestration will be felt most deeply by America’s poorest individuals and families. But how big will the cuts be? How will HUD and other agencies handle them? What can advocates like us do to ask Congress to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to the budget?
NLIHC just created two pages on its website with all the information you need to help you understand sequestration from a housing perspective.
First, we’ve compiled a page on sequestration with links to all the necessary HUD, Obama administration, and Office of Management and Budget information. We also include links to resources from other organizations, like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. We’ll update this page regularly as agencies post new guidance and other information on sequestration becomes available.
Second, the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, a coalition of over 70 national organizations staffed by NLIHC, has its own sequestration resources specially created for housing and community development advocates. On our CHCDF sequestration page, you’ll find talking points, a Twitter campaign, and in-depth information about the housing impacts of sequestration.
Sequestration was never supposed to happen; it was a “stick” Members of Congress adopted as a way to force themselves to negotiate a budget deal. The stick didn’t work, and now we’re living with the consequences. It will be crucial for all of us to advocate this month– beginning today– for the damaging impacts of sequestration to be minimal and short-lived. Take a look at our sequestration resources, join our National Call-In Day today, and encourage your colleagues and friends to join you in this fight for a more balanced approach to the federal budget.
Last week, NLIHC released Housing Spotlight: America’s Affordable Housing Shortage, and How to End It. It’s a startling look into the depth of the affordable housing shortage facing extremely low income households, providing data at both the national and state levels showing the amount of housing needed is far greater than what is affordable and available to the lowest income renters.
Prior to the release of our report, HUD released a summary of its report to Congress on the worst case housing needs. As the Seattle Medium notes, the report shows 8.48 million renter households experiencing the worst case housing needs– severely unaffordable housing, substandard housing conditions or both– which represents a 43.5% increase since 2007.
The local CBS affiliate in Phoenix reports that due to the shortage of affordable rentals available to the lowest income people, three out of four of these renters will spend more than half of their incomes on housing costs.
Foster’s Daily Democrat in New Hampshire reports on the HUD worst case needs report, and notes that while rents in the state are increasing, the data shows that vacancy rates are down, adding another layer of difficulty for lower income renters.
While the data continue to show that low income renters face a severe housing shortage, the federal programs that help the poorest Americans with their housing needs are now subject to deep cuts. As the New York Times reports, sequestration, which took effect Friday, will result in hundreds of thousands of very poor households losing their housing assistance and becoming at risk of homelessness.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Spring intern Christina Payamps-Smith, a master’s degree student at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, shares her experiences as an intern with us today.
For as long as I can remember I have had an interest in social justice issues. After graduating from college, like most recent graduates, I contemplated what to do next that involved my interests. After some searching, I quickly found an AmeriCorps position with an affordable housing developer. Since this time, my interest in social justice was pointed to affordable housing.
Using this experience as a jump start, I was eager to learn more about affordable housing and the environment in which housing organizations exist. I started working on my masters in public administration to gain additional knowledge. After several family moves, I found myself living in the D.C. metro area and looking for opportunities to supplement my coursework. In my search I came across the internship openings at NLIHC and thought, after writing multiple class papers using NLIHC’s publications as resources, that this opportunity would be a perfect fit.
The experience has already proved to be exciting just a few weeks into my internship. I have had the opportunity to attend coalition meetings, meet with Congressional staffers on Capitol Hill, attend Congressional committee hearings and interact with people who are dedicated to affordable housing. My time here has educated me on the legislative process and all the people and issues that are involved. Many of the projects that I have worked on so far challenge me to develop my skills and learn new things.
For anyone considering an internship with NLIHC, I would say it is a worthwhile experience. This internship offers an opportunity to build professional skill sets and to truly gain knowledge in all areas of affordable housing.