Blog: National Housing Trust Fund – Update
By Marge Clark, BVM
March 02, 2015
It is no surprise that persons who become homeless are struggling in extreme poverty. There is no way to align homelessness with Catholic Social Teaching/Tradition. One who is living on the streets, in a shelter or their car, or even bunking in an overcrowded apartment is not living in dignity.
And certainly it does not show our nation as having a preferential option for people who are poor. For more than the ten years I have been with NETWORK, the organization has worked for passage of, and then funding for, the National Housing Trust Fund.
The purpose of the National Housing Trust Fund is to provide sufficient housing units available and accessible to persons at the extremely-low-income level. That refers to those whose income is at or below 30% of the “area median income” of the community.
Consider your own annual income – what would be 30% of that, as a family’s total annual income? Find out the median income of your city, town or county – would you be able to live your lifestyle with that income? Would you be able to afford a place for your family to live, adequate heating, sufficient food, medical care,… and the list goes on.
There are two big problems: there is not enough housing stock affordable and available, and people at the extremely-low-income level in most areas can’t afford housing that is available through current vouchers, of which there are also far too few! The trust fund would purchase, rehabilitate or otherwise make available additional units – at least 90% of which would be apartments. Most of these would be in multi-income complexes, so as not to further concentrate extreme poverty. The funding would be apart from annual discretionary funding in order to allow planning, construction and rehabilitation to take place. Currently, for every 100 households that are eligible, there exist only 35 units of housing.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the National Housing Trust Fund into law. Its stated sources of funding were “GSEs” (government-sponsored enterprises) and additional profits that would be coming to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac due to their being allowed to guarantee higher priced mortgages. That was well and good – until two months later, when the bottom fell out of the housing market. Fannie and Freddie went through the next few years with no profit, and being in debt. Over the last couple of years that has turned around. They are now gaining profits, and have made the decision to fund some grants through the National Housing Trust Fund. Regulations are completed and have been put into effect.
However, now there are members of Congress trying to destroy the Trust Fund! Their reasoning is distorted/inaccurate. Most recently, the House Financial Services Committee attacked the Fund in its “Views and Estimates” paper in response to the President’s budget proposal. Their attacks were varied, such as:
- Calling it duplicative of other housing programs. (NO, there is no other program designated as providing housing units for this population, and the programs noted were for purchase of houses.)
- Fabricating information (Congressman Hensarling) that it would become an “ACORN-like” slush fund – this was countered by Congresswoman Waters, saying his comment is “unbelievable.”
NETWORK is grateful to those countering these accusations. Congressman Kildee (MI) proposed an amendment to clarify the differences between the Trust Fund and the other housing programs – however, it was defeated along party lines. The National Housing Trust Fund is well developed, the regulations are in place, and now the funding sources can be implemented. Advocates must work to keep congressional members from destroying this and other sources of assistance to those who struggle to have a place to call home.