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NHC to Congress: Short-term housing cuts mean long-term consequences

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Wednesday June 24, 2015

Contact:
Ethan Handelman
202-466-2121 ext. 238
ehandelman@nhc.org

WASHINGTON – On June 23, the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations subcommittee reported out an FY 2016 THUD funding bill that demonstrates how budget caps are forcing short-term cuts with long-term consequences. While NHC understands the budget constraints facing the subcommittee, the cuts to vital housing investments in this bill are deep and damaging.  We call on Congress to forge a bipartisan compromise on spending that would allow essential long-term investments in housing and many other areas of need.

“With the economy only slowly recovering and the crisis in the shortage of affordable rental homes growing significantly, now is not the time for the federal government to back away from housing,” observed Chris Estes, president and CEO of NHC.  “Unfortunately, compared to the recent foreclosure challenges we are now in a silent crisis and policy makers may be less aware of how much damage these cuts will do to communities, families and economies.”

A prime example is the HOME program, which the Senate THUD subcommittee’s draft bill would fund at $66 million, only 7% of last year’s level. At such low funding, the HOME program could not function as designed.  This funding cut is especially egregious given the unrelenting affordability pressures facing communities throughout the country. HOME is the only federal block grant dedicated to housing production, and it has produced more than 1.1 million affordable homes over 20 years.  States and localities use HOME to serve the whole spectrum of housing need, from homelessness to ownership to disaster recovery, from urban to rural areas, and all low-income populations, including families with children, the elderly, veterans, and persons with special needs.  HOME’s flexibility allows states and localities to combine it with capital funding like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or rental assistance programs to fill in property finance gaps and thereby create or preserve affordable housing.

“As it is now, the vast majority of HUD’s funding goes just to renew existing assistance,”
said Ethan Handelman, vice president for policy and advocacy at NHC.  “The choices the budget caps forced on the appropriators caused them to abandon new production, which means housing problems are only going to get worse in the future.”

NHC urges members of Congress to undertake the political compromises necessary to draft a budget agreement that lifts the budget caps and ends sequestration. The Budget Control Act’s spending caps require funding restrictions that make it impossible to fund HUD’s rental assistance programs without deep cuts to other vital and proven housing programs, like HOME. With a budget agreement and a return to real investment in housing programs, Congress has the opportunity to actually start addressing the growing housing affordability challenges in this country, such as the 9.6 million working households paying more than half of their income for housing. Without a budget agreement, vulnerable populations will continue to suffer and housing programs will fall drastically short of need, which weakens communities and restricts economic growth.

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About the National Housing Conference

The National Housing Conference represents a diverse membership of housing stakeholders including tenant advocates, mortgage bankers, nonprofit and for‐profit home builders, property managers, policy practitioners, real estate professionals, equity investors, and more, all of whom share a commitment to safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America. We are the nation’s oldest housing advocacy organization, dedicated to the affordable housing mission since our founding in 1931. As a nonpartisan, 501(c) 3 nonprofit, we are a research and education resource working to advance housing policy at all levels of government in order to improve housing outcomes for all in this country.