The Trump administration is pushing to slash federal affordable housing funding. Here's why that's a bad idea.
Earlier this month, the Trump Administration released its proposed 2019 federal budget. The severely flawed plan includes vast cuts to factions of the federal government that foster well-being in the lives of America’s citizenry every single day – including a 14 percent cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
As the proposed budget made its rounds, I and hundreds of other Habitat for Humanity leaders, homeowners, and volunteers from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. for Habitat on the Hill to urge members of Congress to take a stand for affordable housing.
Each of us brought perspectives from our own hometowns to the Hill. In Boulder and Broomfield counties, where I have worked with Flatirons Habitat for Humanity for five years, affordable housing is a pressing need.
In 2017, Boulder was ranked the 6th most expensive U.S. city to purchase a home, with the median cost of a single-family home at $548,000. Affordable housing is defined as not costing more than 30 percent of a family’s income. But 54 percent of renters in Boulder County are spending more than that amount, with 32 percent of Boulderites spending more than half of their income on rent.
Affordable housing is defined as not costing more than 30 percent of a family's income. But 54 percent of renters in Boulder County are spending more than that amount.
Habitat colleagues offered similarly daunting statistics from their own growing cities: skyrocketing housing costs and an unmet demand for realistic middle-class housing options. Over and over, we recognized these challenges as symptoms of the nationwide affordable housing crisis.
This crisis has a real impact on American families. Families who designate such a high proportion of their income toward housing are forced to make impossible choices between basic necessities like rent, food, transportation, and healthcare. But families with stable access to safe, decent, and affordable housing experience financial security, improved health, and increased educational opportunity.
Families with access to safe, decent, and affordable housing experience financial security, improved health, and increased educational opportunity.
Trump’s proposed $6.8 billion cut to HUD funds would reduce Section 8 federal housing subsidies and obliterate the fund for public housing capital repairs. It would also slash federal investments in the creation of new affordable homes. In places like the Front Range region – where the population is quickly outgrowing the number of available housing options – these federal investments help ensure that in our saturated market, middle-class families can still find a place to call home.
These cuts have been proposed at a point in time when public investment in affordable housing is already chronically underfunded. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the capital needs backlog is nearly $40 billion and increases each year. Such a massive backlog prevents the upkeep and repair of affordable homes that have already been built. Increasing it would only leave more low-income people without an affordable home, leading to increased evictions and higher rates of homelessness across the country.
Flatirons Habitat for Humanity leverages at least $3 of local funding each dollar of HUD funding it receives. These funds – which support the purchase and pre-development of land and the construction of homes – enable our mission to create affordable homeownership opportunities for many hardworking people in our community.
For decades, Habitat for Humanity has broken down barriers to affordable housing and worked to build the middle class back up. But our progress will be impeded if Congress supports the Trump administration's budget.
In addition to HUD funding, the Trump administration’s budget places the AmeriCorps program at risk. We – and many other nonprofits - benefit a great deal from AmeriCorps, which offers us talented staff members and volunteers every year. These talented and selfless people give a year to our cause in return for minimal living expenses and assistance with college tuition. They do it to learn about our work, families, and communities and I have no doubt they are our future leaders.
For decades, Habitat for Humanity affiliates like ours have broken down barriers to affordable housing and worked to build the middle class back up. And we have seen success: since 2010, the United States has seen a 14 percent reduction in overall homelessness and a 23 percent reduction in family homelessness.
Our progress, however, will be impeded if Congress supports the Trump Administration’s budget, which will only exacerbate the affordable housing crisis we are in the midst of right now, sinking the middle class and driving continued inequality.
This spring, Congress will resolve its budget for next year. For the sake of the communities they represent, they should not only set aside this misguided proposal but also go a step further and prioritize solutions that will end the affordable housing crisis at home. By pushing for policies that help preserve and create affordable housing options, legislators will strengthen American communities across the board.
This story originally appeared as a guest opinion in the Boulder Daily Camera.