When Congress comes back – whatever the election results – the men and women we elect will be facing appropriations season; they’ll be trying to determine how much money to spend on which programs. Ask any staffer on the Hill and they can tell you it’s always a rigorous and deliberate process – and passing a budget is one of the most important things that Congress does all year.
And that’s not all. We at the Alliance set policy priorities every year that we work toward with Congress and the Administration.
- Increase access to permanent, affordable housing for extremely low-income families by funding new Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers and supporting the capitalization of the National Housing Trust Fund.
- Increase the capacity of the VA and HUD to prevent and end veterans homelessness by enacting S. 1547, the Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and supporting funding for additional HUD-VASH vouchers.
- End youth homelessness through supportive housing, rental assistance, and services specific to unaccompanied youth by supporting a baseline youth count in 2011 community homeless counts and increasing funding of the Family Unification Program
And really, that’s not all. Remember the whole federal plan to end homelessness that the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released last June? Remember the youth homelessness site visit campaign? Remember how the HEARTH Act is going to kick up at any moment?
The people that we elect today will have the ability to make significant changes in our lives – and for my part, I’m hoping they have the best interests of our communities and our country at heart.
And if that isn’t enough, let me remind of you of the situation at hand with a few flashback statistics (courtesy of the Center for Housing Research):
- With only one in three poor renters benefiting from federal housing assistance, by 2006, some 16.8 million renter households (46 percent of all renters) were paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.
- According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2010 Out of Reach report, a full-time minimum wage earner could not affordably rent a typical one-bedroom apartment in any county in the country (except some parts of Puerto Rico). The report estimates that the national “housing wage” – the hourly wage that a full-time worker must earn in order to afford the rent for a standard quality unit – is $18.44, or roughly 2.5 times higher than the current minimum hourly wage.
- In 2008, the percentage of people living with severe housing cost burden – paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income in rent – shot up by one-third to 16 percent. According to the State of the Nation’s Housing authored by the Center on Joint Housing Studies at Harvard University, a record 18.6 million households faced severe housing cost burdens this year – an increase of 4.7 million since 2001.
Look, you don’t need us to tell you that the situation out there isn’t rosy. Isn’t there some hubbub about the rent being too high in New York?
For many, it’s not a joke – it’s for real. Countless Americans are struggling to stay stably housed and support themselves and their families while precariously straddling their financial cliff. Together, with the support of Congress and the Administration, we can make that tightrope walk just a bit easier. With a focus on housing and services, we can prevent and end homelessness in this country.
So make sure you get out there and vote today.