Washington – In his State of the Union Address, President Donald Trump failed to address the urgent need in America for more decent, safe, affordable homes for the lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, low wage working families and victims of recent disasters.
By noting his intent to “lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity,” the president previewed the Administration’s planned efforts to cut federal housing benefits to low income families by imposing arbitrary work requirements and other ineffective and costly measures. One of the biggest barriers to economic prosperity for the lowest income families is a lack of decent, accessible and affordable homes. Yet the Administration will soon propose legislation to cut housing assistance for low income residents by changing rent structures and imposing new punitive requirements. The president’s pending proposals are more about punishing low income people than helping them.
These proposals could leave even more low income people without a stable home, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder and live with dignity. Work requirements do not create the jobs and opportunities needed to lift families out of poverty, but instead could cut struggling families off from the very housing stability and services that make it possible for them to find and maintain jobs. If the president is serious about helping lift struggling families out of poverty, he should focus on expanding – not slashing - investments in affordable homes, as well as increased wages, job training, education, and childcare.
The president failed to outline his plan to address one of the most pressing challenges facing low income survivors of the recent hurricanes and wildfires: the need for longer term, stable, safe places in which to live while they get back on their feet. President addressed disaster victims by saying “we love you,” but what people impacted by 2017’s hurricanes and wildfires need most from the federal government is solutions to help them recover and rebuild, starting with affordable homes. It has been five months since the first hurricane made landfall, and the Trump administration has still not taken steps to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to help the lowest income families find longer-term housing solutions, secure employment, and connect to public benefits as they rebuild their lives. Without DHAP, tens of thousands of families are still living in hotels through FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program and low income families that have been shut out of the hotel program have had no choice but to move into uninhabitable or overcrowded homes, stay at shelters, or sleep in cars or on the streets. This is unacceptable.
President Trump called for a robust federal investment in the “infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve” but has consistently failed to acknowledge that in addition to new and improved roads and bridges America needs a significant investment in the infrastructure of affordable rental homes. For every 100 of the lowest income households in our country, there are just 35 rentals homes affordable and available to them. Any new infrastructure investment plan must include increased funding to the national Housing Trust Fund, a tool designed to increase the supply of affordable homes for those with the greatest needs; an expansion of Housing Choice Vouchers to help connect struggling families to areas of opportunity; and resources to repair and rehabilitate the nation’s public housing stock to preserve this asset for current tenants and future generations. Affordable rental homes for working families, seniors, and people with disabilities is foundational infrastructure. New and repaired roads and bridges must connect families living in decent, affordable homes to jobs, services and communities.
President Trump called for increasing spending for the military, at the expense of the non-defense discretionary spending needed for affordable housing and community development. Congress must lift spending caps equally for defense and domestic priorities, including affordable housing and community development. America is stronger when every family has a healthy, accessible home they can afford. The low spending caps currently in place have only made it harder for Congress to make the investments needed to help families and communities thrive. Congress should work to lift these spending caps with parity for defense and domestic programs and provide robust housing and community development resources.
Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address missed the mark in addressing one of the nation’s most critical needs: ensuring that struggling low income people have safe, affordable places to call home – to provide them the dignity, security and opportunity that such homes provide. We can and must do better.
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 incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.