The HOME Investment Partnerships Program is facing crippling cuts as part of the federal budget process, and a new report details how deeply communities would feel the loss—not just in terms of housing but of jobs and local income as well. LISC's Andrea Ponsor takes a look at why the program works so well and why community development leaders are fighting so hard to preserve it.
Even in a difficult budget environment, a program that creates jobs and generates tax revenue—all while addressing a pressing, national need for affordable housing—should be one that we can rally around.
But the nearly 25-year-old HOME Investment Partnerships Program is facing devastating cuts despite the fact that every county in America needs more resources to address housing shortfalls.
A new report details the potential economic impact of the FY2016 appropriations process. Building HOME: The HOME Investment Partnerships Program’s Impact on America’s Families and Communities points to dramatic drops in new construction, a major scale-back in rental assistance and billions of dollars in lost economic activity. The cuts will almost certainly take a terrible toll.
HOME is so valuable because of its flexibility. It makes block grants to municipalities so they can support development projects and programs that respond to local conditions. That includes home repair and homeownership assistance in low-income areas, as well as rental housing production and rental housing assistance programs, like housing vouchers for very low-income families.
We see it in action in the 30 cities and more than 1,300 rural counties where LISC and its partners work: in Houston, it was combined with federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to fund a supportive housing project for veterans; in rural New York, it funded a home repair program that helped a single mother improve her family’s living environment; and in Montana, it helped establish a land trust that financed more than 20 affordable homes. No other housing program provides this kind of local flexibility.
To date, HOME has funded $26.3 billion in housing work that has leveraged another $117 billion in public and private resources. That capital has built or preserved 1.2 million affordable homes and provided rental assistance for more than 270,000 families. It doesn’t end there, though. The new report points to an estimated 1.5 million jobs and $94.2 billion in local income, all connected to the HOME.
Despite all this, the program was funded at an historically low level of $900 million in FY 2015 and is targeted for further cuts in the current appropriations process. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposes to virtually eliminate HOME in FY 2016, slashing it to just $66 million, or less than 3 percent of the $1.825 billion appropriated just five years ago. The House proposal is better but still troubling, at $767 million. It would essentially eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund, and further limit our national capacity to expand affordable housing opportunities.
HUD estimates that the Senate bill would mean 35,669 fewer affordable housing units than the Administration’s proposed $1.06 billion budget and cut rental assistance for 8,193 low-income families. The report points to the further loss of 36,461 jobs and $2.27 billion in local income.
America is an affordable housing crisis and cannot afford cuts to vital programs that address it. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies reports that nearly half of all renter households are cost-burdened, paying nearly one-third of their monthly income for rent. Nearly a quarter are severely burdened, paying more than half of their monthly income in rent. These challenges are seen in markets across the country. As it is, only one in four eligible Americans households is able to access federal assistance.
In a world where economic mobility is so challenging, it’s hard to see how people can lift their standards of living when they can’t even find a decent place to live. Those who care deeply about the health of communities must advocate for housing options that lay the groundwork for stability and economic opportunity. HOME has proven itself to do just that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrea Ponsor, Policy Director
Andrea advocates for federal programs that provide support for LISC’s housing and community development programs. She communicates our policy agenda to members of Congress, congressional staff and other federal policy makers and analyzes federal laws and policies, developing policy briefs and representing LISC in advocacy coalitions.