Housing Legislative Action Call!

Four RAB members attended the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2015 “Housing Legislative Forum” at the Washington Court Hotel in the nation’s Capitol.

dome restoration

The March 1-3 conference, just steps from the Capitol building, opened with a tribute to Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooks, a republican and first black American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate. Brooks championed low-income and fair housing.

Brooks sponsored the “Fair Housing Act” (1968) and authored the 1969 “Brooke Rule” which established the principle that residents of federally assisted housing spend no more than 25% of their income on housing (it was raised to 30% in 1981). Brooks died in January (2015). 

The NLIHC Housing Priorities for 2015:Brooks

  • ELIMINATE Sequester Spending Caps in the 2016 budget. The 2011 Budget Control Act led to the Sequester. Under the Deficit Reduction Sequester, the government must CUT spending by $109-billion a year for 9 years…half from defense and half from non-defense.
    • OPPOSE any move to eliminate the Housing Trust Fund: H.R. 2767 Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act (PATH) of 2013. Introduced by Scott Garrett (R- NJ), it would eliminate Fannie/Freddie and depend on the private market for mortgage funding…limiting government support for first time homebuyers and low-moderate income buyers.
    • SUPPORT H.R. 1213The Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2013 introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Ellison reintroduced the Acin February. NLIHC and its partners are urging members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors. Under the bill the National Housing Trust Fund gets $109 billion, Section 8 gets $54 billion and the Public Housing Capital Fund gets $18 billion.White House

The White House

  •  OPPOSE EXPANDING Moving To Work…unless reforms from the “Stakeholder” agreement are included.
  • RESTORE Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Vouchers. President is asking for $21 billion to renew ALL vouchers now in use and restore 67-thousand lost to the 2013 Sequester cuts.
  • SUPPORT Presidents request for $11 million to FUND Project-Based Rental Assistance for 2016. (NLIHC is asking for an ADDITIONAL $85 million to cover an increase in the Medical Expense Deduction threshold from 3-10 percent of income.)
  • OPPOSE Medical Deduction changes to Rental Assistance Programs…unless there is an increase in standard deduction for heads of households 62 and older – or who have a disability.
  • SUPPORT PTFA: Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009. Stipulates that anyone buying foreclosed residential property must honor existing leases or give tenants at least 90 days to move before starting eviction proceedings.WW II Memorial

World War II Memorial, Washington DC

 NATIONAL HOUSING TRUST FUND (NHTF) – Ed Gramlich (National Low Income Housing Coalition)

  • Became law in 2008 – Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA).
  • Provides grants to states to increase and preserve the supply of rental housing for extremely low-income and very low‐income families, including homeless families. Increase homeownership for extremely low and very low‐income families.

Gets its financing from FANNIE MAE and FREDDIE MAC. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must transfer a percentage (0.042%) of their new business to finance the fund. But Fannie and Freddie were placed in conservatorship and the government suspended contributions to the Fund.

As of January 1, 2015…money is now being set aside and should be available in 2016.

  • Each state will decide which agency will get these grants with emphasis on: the production, preservation, and rehabilitation of rental housing; and the production, preservation, and rehabilitation of housing for home ownership, including down payment assistance, closing cost assistance, and assistance for interest rate buy-downs.World War II Memorial MA

World War II Memorial, MA marker

Using Research to Inform, Educate, Advocate: Matthew DesmondAssistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies, Harvard University

Desmond gave an excellent, emotionally gripping expose on evictions, using a Milwaukee, WI family to demonstrate how evictions lead to worse housing for evicted families. Milwaukee has the highest eviction rates (16 per day). Others include Cleveland, Chicago and Kansas City.

  • Some landlords engage in illegal evictions – like removing the doors.
  • 1 in 8 families are forced to move in 2 years.
  • The leading issue for black men is incarceration; for black women it is evictions.Washington Monument

Washington Monument from New York Avenue

Using Research to Inform, Educate, Advocate: Ingrid Gould EllenProfessor of Urban Policy and Planning, New York University.

  • More people are renting – unwilling/wary to buy homes since the mortgage crisis.
  • Rental supply cannot keep up, hence shortage.
  • Rents are rising but incomes falling.
  • More than two-thirds of families are spending more than half their income on rent.
  • Rising rent burden affects kid’s education, nutrition and healthcare. Kids who move homes/schools more often score lower. Moving does not only disrupt the kid’s education, it also disrupts schools. In some cases entire grades are left empty.Eisenhower Executive office Bldg (next to WH)

Eisenhower Executive Office building, Washington DC

The BHA RAB is a member of the NLIHC.

House Republicans released their Budget today (03/17/2015. More than half the GOP budget is allocated to Defense with yearly increases. Everything else, including Housing, is being cut!

Excerpts:

“Food stamps, public housing assistance, and development grants are judged not on whether they achieve improved health and economic outcomes for the recipients or build a stronger community, but on the size of their budgets. It is time these programs focus on core functions and responsibilities, not just on financial resources. In so doing this budget respects hard-working taxpayers who want to ensure their tax dollars are spent wisely”.

______________________________________

Our budget makes responsible reforms to housing-assistance programs that will make them sustainable and focused. Despite dramatic funding increases, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Worst Case Housing Needs Report to Congress suggests the number of families who are severely rent burdened or live in substandard conditions continues to grow.

Reforms are needed to ensure assistance is available to those most in need and is structured in a way that best enables upward mobility.

One reform could include the gradual expansion of the Moving to Work program to high-performing public housing authorities. Moving to Work gives public housing authorities more flexibility in how they spend funds so that they can serve families more efficiently and effectively. 

Chronic homelessness in the U.S. has declined by 21 percent since 2010, but a lot of work is left to be done.

This budget continues support for efforts to end chronic homelessness by urging HUD to refocus efforts to accomplish the Administration’s goal of helping to end chronic homelessness by 2017″.

About bha-RAB

The Resident Advisory Board (RAB) consists of public housing and Section 8 residents who assist the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and make recommendations regarding development of the BHA's Agency Plan.
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