When Representative Parren Mitchell (D-MD) of Baltimore took to the floor of the House of Representatives on April 8, 1974, he pointed out a housing subsidy imbalance in federal policy that remains 40 years later, and which today’s United for Homes campaign aims to rebalance.
Mr. Mitchell spoke to the House that day to explain his bill to improve and expand public housing, H.R. 13985 (see Memo, 3/7). He cited the goal of the Housing Act of 1949 to achieve, “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family,” and then commented, “but, for millions of low income American families, that goal has been nothing but a hollow joke.”
Echoing the data-driven policy advocacy pioneered by NLIHC founder Cushing N. Dolbeare, Mr. Mitchell said that in 1972 only 3% of all new housing production served people with incomes below $4,000, while two-thirds of all new housing production served households with incomes greater than $10,000. At that 3% rate of development, Mr. Mitchell calculated that it would take 179 years to provide new housing for the 15 million families with income below $4,000, compared to 14 years for the 25 million households with income greater than $10,000.
Foreshadowing the United for Homes campaign, Mr. Mitchell stated, “Even worse than this sorry statistic is the fact that housing subsidies in this country by and large go to those who need them the least. This is because the subsidies which homeowners receive in the form of tax deductions amount to four times as much as all other housing subsidies combined.”
He continued, “Our housing subsidy structure is topsy-turvy. In 1970, for example, households with income below $3,000 received an average housing subsidy of $56 per year – total subsidies of $0.6 billion for 11 million households…Households with income above $10,000 received an average subsidy of $179 – total subsidies of $4.5 billion for 25 million households.”
Forty years on, NLIHC urges advocates to join the United for Homes campaign in restoring equilibrium to the nation’s housing policy so that the goal of a decent home is no longer the hollow promise that Mr. Mitchell spoke of. To learn more about the United for Homes campaign, go to www.unitedforhomes.org.
NLIHC will mark its 40th anniversary throughout 2014, culminating in commemorative event on Monday, November 17 in Washington, DC. Please save the date.