The Senate Wants to Eliminate One of the Most Successful Affordable Housing Programs
By Rachel M. Cohen | Jul 29, 2015
For more than 20 years, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program has helped rural, suburban, and urban communities provide housing for some of their most vulnerable citizens. HOME is the largest federal block grant for state and local governments that can be used to create affordable housing for low-income populations, including seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, veterans, and the homeless.
In FY 2010, Congress allocated $1.8 billion to the HOME program. One year later, thanks to the Budget Control Act of 2011—also known as the “sequester”—Congress sharply reduced HOME’s budget to $900 million. It hasn’t gone up since.
The lack of quality affordable housing is one of this nation’s most pressing economic problems. Despite this, the proposed FY 2016 House budget only provides $767 million for HOME—a 58 percent reduction from pre-sequester levels.
The Senate goes even further, proposing a mere $66 million for HOME—a 93 percent reduction from 2010. (HUD breaks down those cuts by state here.) Experts agree this would effectively kill the program.
On July 27, more than 1,500 organizations sent Congress a letter in support of HOME and urged legislators to lift sequester spending caps:
These constraints, and the severe HOME cut specifically, would have a drastic, negative impact on our nation’s ability to provide decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for those most in need at a time when housing markets and the broader economy continue to struggle and the need for affordable housing continues to grow. Therefore, we call on you and your colleagues in Congress to lift these caps and restore HOME funding to no less than $1.06 billion, as requested by the Administration for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.
According to Enterprise Community Partners, a real estate investment company that focuses on affordable housing and community development, HOME has helped to build and preserve more than one million affordable homes and has provided direct rental assistance to hundreds of thousands of families. The White House Office of Management and Budget says the proposed Senate cuts would lead to a loss of roughly 39,000 affordable housing units for low-income families.
HOME’s flexible block grant dollars have also been used to help fill financing gaps within other federal housing programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and the U.S. Department of Rural Housing. That means HOME cuts could negatively impact those initiatives too.
Moving forward with these cuts would be disastrous. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, in 2013 only 26 percent of very-low-income households that were eligible for rental assistance received any assistance. And researchers say that nearly 2.2 million housing units could disappear from the nation’s affordable stock over the next decade. We need greater federal investments, and fast.