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Issue Position: Affordable Housing Crisis

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

"On January 20, 1941, President Roosevelt declared, "A nation, like a person, has a body - a body that must be fed and clothed and housed, invigorated and rested, in a manner that measures up to the objectives of our time." And in his State of the Union Address of 1945, FDR motivated the nation with this call: "The provision of a decent home for every family is a national necessity, if this country is to be worthy of its greatness." - Yvette Clarke

Great strides have been made since the Depression-era housing crisis, which prompted the nation, under President Roosevelt's bold leadership, to start down the path of federal involvement in the housing sector. Today, record numbers of American families own their own homes; the overall quality of housing stock and the diversity of housing choices available to Americans have improved markedly. Federal policies have been instrumental in eliminating financial risk to homeowners and lenders through such vehicles as mortgage insurance and favorable tax treatment for homeowners, developers, and investors. Direct subsidies allowing for below-market interest rates and down-payment assistance have created a whole new class of homeowners. A secondary market for mortgages made possible through the creation of government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginny Mae, a HUD agency, provide liquidity and economic security to lenders, enabling extensions of credit to American families not possible before federal intervention. Though the political rhetoric often implies that only the poor have benefited from federal housing programs, it is clear that national housing policies have bolstered the housing conditions of American families at all income levels.

Despite those efforts, as well as unprecedented levels of productivity and financial prosperity, we have an affordable housing crisis in Brooklyn. A Major Cause is Bush's War on Affordable Housing

Ideologues in the Bush administration keep reducing and try to dis-mantle Section 8, the most successful public-and-private housing partnership in the history of the United States. It's the only way to explain the destructive policies emanating from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which has been hammering at Section 8 all year. The conflicting signals and general aura of hostility have convinced housing authorities around the country that they need to defend themselves by avoiding new commitments and cutting back on their old ones.

Even worse, the developers who have counted on Section 8 money to build affordable housing for the poor, the elderly and the disabled now think that they can no longer trust this program. Republican lawmakers whose districts are being hurt have kept quiet in the name of party solidarity. But this posture of loyal complicity will be difficult to maintain as the housing crisis deepens, which it surely will if HUD continues along its current course.

Section 8, a landmark program, has produced affordable housing for needy Americans since the Nixon years. It works this way: instead of doing the construction itself, the government guarantees subsidies for rents in the private market. Families, most of them at or below the poverty level, pay 30 percent of their incomes toward rent, and Section 8 vouchers pay the rest. At the moment, the program covers about two million people, a majority of them elderly or in families with children. Developers building affordable housing have come to depend on Section 8 guarantees for financial backing.

I believe that adequate, safe and affordable housing is a human right. As civilizations and economies develop, certain material basics (like food, shelter, health care, and education) should not be turned over to market forces and a "survival of the fittest" philosophy and program. We know that in such a system, the few always wind up on top with the best and most of everything, while the many end up on the bottom with the least and worst. Such is the case with housing in America.

Clarke Urges NYCHA Not to Raise Rents

Facing a $168 million shortfall in funding, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has proposed drastic fee increases to residents for services and maintenance.

"With skyrocketing energy costs, a tight labor market and decreased federal support for important social service programs, low-income families throughout the City are struggling to make ends meet. NYCHA must not further burden these already strained families by imposing exorbitant fee increases," Yvette Clarke.

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