Point of View: This is Our Moment – by NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel

This is a critical time for our housing movement and our country, when we face both extraordinary challenges and exhilarating possibilities. Despite the challenges – maybe because of them - I’ve never felt so hopeful, or so certain that we will achieve big, positive change together. In fact, we already are.

You know the challenges well - you live and breathe them every day. The housing crisis continues to worsen, most harming the lowest-income renters. Homelessness in some communities is increasing and becoming more visible than ever. The Administration proposes deep cuts to affordable housing and cruel policies that would increase homelessness. Our country’s public housing infrastructure is crumbling, and some residents are living in unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable conditions. We face more frequent and more severe disasters, destroying homes, lives, and communities. The longest government shutdown in history threatened tens of thousands of renters with losing their homes and did long-term damage to critical housing programs, and the possibility of another government shutdown looms large.

And yet, despite it all, together, we have achieved so much.

Thanks to all of your organizing and hard work, we continue to maintain a 10% increase to HUD’s budget, protect funding for the national Housing Trust Fund, enact bipartisan legislation to create more rental assistance, and defeat harmful proposals by the administration.

We often talk about our legislative wins in terms of percentages. Let’s talk instead about people. Because of you and your advocacy to increase HUD’s budget: 50,000 low-income people with disabilities, veterans and youth experiencing homelessness will have new housing vouchers; 30,000 people experiencing homelessness will have homes from increases to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Grants; and 1,000 new homes for poor seniors will be built with the first new funding for Section 202 housing construction in 8 years. Protecting the national Housing Trust Fund will mean another 2,000-3,000 homes per year for deeply poor households across the country. Most recently, we worked together to enact and fund 5,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers for families with young children.

All told, our work together over the last year means new housing for nearly 100,000 deeply poor renters who would otherwise still be sleeping on streets, in shelters, or spending exorbitant amounts of their income to stay precariously housed. And, because of your fierce advocacy, 5 million low-income families living in subsidized housing can sleep a little easier knowing they won’t be subject to the rent hikes proposed by HUD Secretary Carson.

These kinds of achievements don’t happen on their own: they happen through organizing, advocating, telling your stories, and partnering with congressional champions through events like the Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action. Two years ago, we held the first Week of Action when organizations and low-income residents across the country hosted 60 events - rallies, press conferences, letter-writing campaigns, and other events to let their members of Congress know the importance of affordable homes. During last year’s Our Homes, Our Voices Week of Action we nearly doubled our impact. This year, you held over 120 National Housing Week of Action events throughout the country urging Congress to ensure that everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home.

Events like these, and your work throughout the year to educate the public and policy makers about the crisis and its solutions, are having an impact. We are breaking through and elevating the housing crisis and its solutions in the national dialogue in powerful ways.

Together, we’ve changed the conversation of what’s possible to achieve. We’re working closely with members of Congress who are increasingly willing not just to work around the edges of the housing crisis, but instead to advance bold, ambitious solutions to tackle it head on. The size and scope of these housing bills are unlike anything we’ve seen in generations, where the scale of the proposed investments matches the scale of the crisis.

And just in time for the 2020 presidential election. 

After decades of disinvestment by Congress, it’s remarkable to now have presidential hopefuls using their platforms to talk about the housing crisis and advance bold solutions for the lowest-income people. In part because of the severity of the crisis itself and in large part because of our collective work to create pressure for solutions, in these early months of the presidential campaign we’ve seen more attention on affordable housing policy than we have in entire presidential campaigns in history. 

Senators Warren, Gillibrand, Booker and Secretary Castro are each proposing over $40 billion a year in annual funding for the national Housing Trust Fund. Senators Booker, Harris and Secretary Castro are proposing renters’ tax credits, with Secretary Castro also proposing making rental assistance universally available to the lowest-income people. More big housing proposals are coming soon, and they are equally and refreshingly ambitious.

Through NLIHC’s nonpartisan Our Homes, Our Votes:2020 project, we’re tracking and working with all presidential hopefuls in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond to ensure the next president, whoever it may be, prioritizes ending homelessness and housing poverty when they’re in the White House. And we’re partnering with organizers, advocates and low-income people to ensure renters are a powerful voting bloc, because housing is built with ballots.

The American people are with joining our calls for action. According to a recent poll we commissioned, 85% of people in America believe that ensuring everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home should be a top national priority, and 8 in 10 want major action from Congress and the White House. Seventy-six percent are more likely to vote for a candidate with a detailed plan on making housing more affordable. It’s no wonder that presidential candidates are increasingly heeding the call for action.

We have powerful new partners joining us in our work, leaders in fields that go far beyond our world of housing. They know, as NLIHC’s founder Cushing Dolbeare said so many years ago, “housing is too important to be left to housers alone.” Through our Opportunity Starts at Home campaign we are galvanizing teachers, civil rights and anti-poverty activists, doctors, nurses, mayors, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ, faith based and criminal justice communities - all joining us to advocate for big investments in the national Housing Trust Fund, rental assistance, public housing repairs, and other solutions to homelessness and housing poverty. And, after welcoming members of another organization to NLIHC, we now can count on nearly 180,000 advocates and activists throughout the country to receive, respond and act on our calls to action.

This is our moment, the one we’ve worked towards and prepared for years. Local and federal momentum, together with a national spotlight and powerful new allies, provide us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build broad-based bipartisan support and enact transformative solutions. And that’s exactly what we’ll do.

We can end homelessness and housing poverty in America. We have the data, the solutions, and, as a country, the resources. We lack only the political will to fund the solutions at the scale necessary. Through our collective work, we are building the will, and policymakers are taking up the charge.

Together, we will end homelessness and housing poverty. Join us.