Why federal housing assistance is more important than ever

federal housing assistance

Federal housing assistance is a critical need–now more than ever.

Families and communities–like ours in the Quad Cities–need some resources to thrive.  We’ve relied for years, for instance, on federal housing assistance. Grant money from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA) helped vulnerable people find stability by helping them into safe homes. That, in turn, has increased stability to the Quad Cities.

When families have stable, affordable homes, they can find jobs more easily, move up economically, do better in school, and stay healthy. Studies back this up. Affordable housing brings many positive effects. It promotes community development. And it boosts our local economy and our job creation.

Federal investments in affordable housing have already lifted millions of families out of poverty. Actually, five million in 2015 alone! Without help, many would live on the streets or in substandard or overcrowded conditions. Others might go without food, medicine or other basics because too much of their limited income has to pay the rent.

Quad Cities housing today

housing assistance need

Without further investments in low income housing, vulnerable people will lose their footing.

Despite their proven track record, HUD and USDA affordable housing programs haven’t gotten enough funding. What’s happened as a result? Today only a quarter of those who qualify for housing assistance get the help they need. And, the need continues to grow.

More people rent their homes than ever before. Because housing supply and rental assistance haven’t kept up with need, rents are rising everywhere. So, more families spend most of their income just keeping a roof over their heads. Homelessness rates are rising in many communities. On top of that, much of our nation’s affordable housing is deteriorating. What exists often isn’t appropriate for people with disabilities.

It’s not just us in the Quad Cities. Every state and congressional district is affected.

What to do?

We wish there was an easy answer. Since every community is different, so are their housing needs. But, we do know that we have to:

  • save and restore the affordable housing that we do have;
  • create more units of affordable housing for low income families; and
  • increase rental assistance and other programs that help make housing affordable.

None of that can happen without federal investment in affordable housing.

But, the Budget Control Act of 2011 decreased funding for affordable housing and community development programs by imposing low federal spending caps. These spending caps limit Congress’s power to invest in housing solutions. Just one example is that HUD housing and community development funding was $4.3 billion lower in 2016 than in 2010.

Result? It’s harder to house low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other vulnerable folks. Any further budget cuts—such as those we’re facing in the proposed federal budget–will undermine even more of the federal safety net for housing.

What’s on the horizon for federal housing assistance?

housing cuts bar graph

Federal investments in low income housing, already on the decline, are slated for caps in 2018. Worse, the proposed budget will reduce that further (dark blue bar at right).

Since the Budget Control Act went into effect, Congress made some short-term agreements to increase spending beyond the budget caps. These agreements provided very limited budgetary relief. They also required parity for defense and non-defense spending (cuts to one should mean equal cuts to the other). That helped. It temporarily eased the pressure on affordable housing. But low spending caps will return in the 2018 fiscal year, unless the White House and Congress act again.

The budget cuts that are on the horizon threaten affordable housing and community development investments even further. (see chart, right) And that threatens millions of low income families. We need Congress to lift the spending caps and keep parity for defense and non-defense programs. That will bring the greatest highest level of funding possible for affordable housing.

The Upshot Is…

Yes, we have to work to reduce the U.S. deficit over the long-term. But balancing our budget shouldn’t be done on the backs of our low income families. Instead, we need to invest in the resources families and communities need to thrive. That builds stronger communities. And strong communities build a strong nation.


HMHI will keep you updated on ways you can help create the kind of national policy that will strengthen our nation. Visit our website frequently. We’ll keep you informed on how to protect low income families and strengthen our Quad Cities.

For more information, we recommend A Place to Call Home by the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) of the National Low Income Housing Coalition from which the information in this article derived.

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