Washington, DC - President Trump’s executive order directs federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to cut critical benefits that help low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other vulnerable people meet their basic needs, including an affordable place to call home. While the president claims that work requirements and other burdens are needed to “promote economic mobility,” these efforts will only leave more low income families without stable housing, making it harder for them to achieve financial stability. These proposals are more about punishing low income people than helping them.
Work requirements don’t work: they do not create the jobs with decent pay and opportunities needed to lift people out of poverty. Instead, imposing such requirements could cut struggling families off from the very housing stability and services that make it possible for them to find and maintain work.
While access to an affordable rental home is essential to economic mobility, far too many low income families struggle to pay rent and make ends meet. When people have a stable, decent, and accessible home that they can afford, they are better able to find employment, achieve economic mobility, perform better in school, and maintain improved health. Research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found, however, a national shortage of more than 7 million rental homes for America’s 11 million extremely low income households. There are just 35 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 lowest income families. As a result, 71% of these families pay at least half of their income on rent, forcing them to make impossible choices between paying rent, buying groceries or medicine, and investing in their futures through education or training. Because of chronic underfunding, three out of four families in need of housing benefits are turned away.
Today, the vast majority of families who rely on housing benefits already work at low wages or are unable to work – whether because they are elderly, have a disability, are in school, or care full-time for another member of the family. Imposing work requirements on the few remaining households is counterproductive. Work requirements prevent people, especially those with disabilities, from receiving the very housing benefits and services that make it possible for them to find and maintain jobs in the first place. Without housing benefits, low income people face a greater risk of eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness – circumstances that make it difficult to maintain a job.
If the president is serious about increasing economic mobility, he should start by expanding, not slashing, the housing benefits needed to help more families.
Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.