With U.S. Affordable Housing in Crisis, Trump Administration Wants To Cut Aid

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Patrick Sission

For many low-income Americans, a safe and affordable home is becoming increasingly hard to find. According to The Gap, a new report from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released earlier today, at a time when more and more Americans are burdened with above-average housing costs, the Trump administration seeks to cut federal programs that provide housing assistance and support and strengthen public housing infrastructure.

According to author Andrew Aurand, the NLIHC’s vice president for research, the problem has gotten worse over the last decade. The shortage of affordable rental units has increased from 5.8 to 7.2 million, and a larger percentage of the growing rental population can be considered extremely low-income renters.

Nationwide, 8 million Americans pay more than half their income on rent each month. To place it in perspective, of every 100 rental units nationwide, only 35 are available or affordable to extremely low-income renters (defined as households with incomes at or below the Poverty Guideline or 30% of area median income, whichever is higher). That number gets lower in many metros areas in the south and west.

Despite these facts, the Trump administration is proposing severe cuts to many federal housing programs, and examining plans to add work requirements to housing assistance.

Diane Yentel, the NLIHC President, called these “burdensome” requirements “misguided and cruel,” adding that “no research makes the case that adding work requirements helps low-income people sustain work.”

The report, like other analysis of the country’s expanding rental population, found that a growing number of renters are spending a higher and higher percentage of their income on rent. The Gap noted that 86 percent of low-income households are cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent, while 71 percent are severely cost-burdened, spending at least half of their income on rent.

The Gap also broke down some of the demographics of the low-income renter population: 44 percent are members of the workforce, 46 percent are seniors with disabilities, and 32 percent are families with children. Aurand said that, as a national average, an adult working 40 hours a week would need to make $17 an hour to be able to comfortably pay for affordable housing where they live (defined as spending roughly a third of their income on rent). No part of the country has a $17-an-hour minimum wage.

This increasing shortage of affordable housing comes at a time when existing federal programs do not cover all the Americans who qualify for assistance. Roughly one out of every four households receive the help that they need, and the Trump administration is proposing further cuts, along with work requirements.

“Seven weeks after cutting taxes, they’ve pivoted to cutting programs across the social safety net,” says Yentel.

The administration’s proposed budget, announced last month, sought to cut billions in funding and assistance from HUD, including eliminating the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the $2 billion Public Housing Capital Fund, as well as cutting $1.6 billion from the Public Housing Operating Fund.

Yentel and Aurand said that, despite the scope of the problem, the good news is that they know the solution. Increased capital investment to strengthen public housing infrastructure and ramping up rental assistance programs, such as Section 8, to fill in the gap between what people earn and what housing costs can go a long way to helping the problem. State and local governments can also play a role by eliminate regulatory barriers that make it harder or impossible to build more multifamily and low-income housing.

But, even if those barriers are eliminated, a national response is also needed.

“With a shortage of 7.2 million homes, there’s no way solving the crisis doesn’t involve addressing the funding crisis,” says Yentel. “State and local governments can’t make up the role the federal government needs to play.”

FAIR USE NOTICE. Tenants Together is not the author of this article and the posting of this document does not imply any endorsement of the content by Tenants Together. This document may contain copyrighted material the use of which may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Tenants Together is making this article available on our website in an effort to advance the understanding of tenant rights issues in California. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Help build power for renters' rights: