In our most recent (February 13) national “HoUSed: Universal, Stable, Affordable Homes” campaign call, we discussed the outlook for the 118th Congress with U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH). We learned about the importance of using collective advocacy to counter House Republicans’ threats to dramatically reduce funding in the fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget and about opportunities to advance bipartisan housing legislation. We also shared key advocacy tools developed by NLIHC to assist advocates in opposing budget and benefit cuts in Congress.
NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel kicked off the call with a warning about House Republicans’ commitment to enacting dramatic cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, which could significantly impact funding for HUD’s vital affordable housing and homelessness programs. Severe budget cuts in 2011, put in place by the “Budget Control Act” enacted that year, created arbitrary spending caps that limited funding for housing programs for a decade. Though the caps recently expired, they kept Congress from funding HUD programs at the scale necessary, setting back the country’s ability to address the urgent affordable housing needs of the nation’s lowest-income people. Democrats in the House and Senate have voiced their commitment to preventing a repeat of such spending cuts, but a bipartisan effort is needed to prevent cuts, keep families in their homes, and expand the availability of assistance to communities and individuals struggling to make ends meet.
Senator Sherrod Brown, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, opened with an impassioned message highlighting the Committee’s obligation to hold banks accountable and its renewed focus on housing. Under Chairman Brown’s leadership, the Committee will focus on the issues that have the greatest impact on people’s lives. He concluded that Congress needs to invest in communities and help people of color obtain opportunities to build equity and create generational wealth.
House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters detailed the growing concerns surrounding the affordable housing crisis and highlighted the work she has done to champion affordable housing and the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The Congresswoman noted her “Ending Homelessness Act,” proposed in the previous Congress, would authorize $5.5 billion in funding to support families paying more than 30% of their annual income on rent, expand the housing voucher program, distribute emergency rental assistance, and prevent housing discrimination. Congresswoman Waters also expressed her commitment to continuing to fight against cuts to HUD’s programs and to push for increased resources for deeply affordable housing.
Sarah Saadian, NLIHC’s senior vice president for policy and field organizing, outlined some of the actions NLIHC has taken to advance affordable housing policy, including sending a memorandum, Advancing Housing Justice in the 118th Congress, to every Congressional office. The memo summarizes NLIHC’s research and policy priorities, highlighting the causes of and solutions to America’s affordable housing crisis. Sarah also stressed the importance of collective action in defeating threats to federal affordable housing and homelessness resources, building political will to enact large-scale, long-term solutions, and advancing NLIHC’s top appropriations priorities in FY24, which include:
- Funding to renew all existing housing voucher contracts and to expand assistance to 200,000 additional families.
- Full funding for public housing operating and administrative needs.
- Full funding for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants program.
- Providing $3 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance.
- Investing $100 million in legal services for eviction prevention.
- Expanding funding for tribal nations with the greatest needs.
NLIHC Public Policy Manager Kim Johnson stressed the necessity of bipartisan cooperation in order to advance legislation in the divided Congress. At present, two bipartisan bills championed by NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign are slated for reintroduction in the coming year: the “Eviction Crisis Act” and the “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” (FSOVA). The “Eviction Crisis Act” would create a permanent federal emergency rental assistance program, building on lessons learned during and infrastructure developed in response to the pandemic. The FSOVA would provide funding for 500,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers with mobility services, specifically targeted to families with young children.
To round out the call, Brooke Schipporeit, NLIHC’s field manager, reviewed NLIHC’s newest advocacy toolkit, Oppose Dramatic Cuts to Federal Investments in Affordable Housing. The toolkit includes an overview of the 2011 Budget Control Act, sample social media messages, talking points, and draft opinion pieces that can be submitted to your local media outlet, as well as links to additional action and organizing tools. NLIHC will be hosting our biggest advocacy day, Capitol Hill Day, during the NLIHC Policy Forum on March 23. In the meantime, and afterward, we encourage organizers to visit our Legislative Action Center and weigh in with their members of Congress on the importance of increased funding for affordable housing and homelessness programs.
National calls will take place every other week. Our next call will be held on February 27 at 2:30 pm ET. Register for the call at: https://bit.ly/3ub2sWM