An article in Affordable Housing Finance quotes LISC EVP Denise Scott and affordable housing director Callahan Seltzer on the crucial place of affordable housing in a strategy to pull the country back from the economic brink. Affordable housing has always served the most vulnerable residents, notes Scott, and the current job losses put more families at risk of homelessness than ever before. We need to use all the tools in the affordable housing toolbox to help prevent a greater housing crisis than the one that predated the pandemic, they argue.
The below excerpt is from:
What Role Can Affordable Housing Play in the Economic Comeback?
by Donna Kimura, Affordable Housing Finance
Affordable housing has shown its stability through different economic cycles and has been key in rebuilding communities after hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters.
Now, as the country faces a different type of crisis in COVID-19, what role can affordable housing play in the nation’s comeback?
Even before the pandemic, there was a huge need for affordable housing.
“This housing is for the most vulnerable—disabled, veterans, seniors, low-income families, folks who are a paycheck away from homelessness,” says Denise Scott, executive vice president for programs at the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC). “The availability of quality affordable housing has been a big challenge.”
Now, in the new context of COVID, it’s an even greater problem because the households in need of affordable housing are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the health crisis, according to Scott.
With the pandemic closing stores, restaurants, and other businesses from coast to coast, millions of people have lost their jobs. And, many of those jobs won’t be coming back soon. A staggering 33 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in recent weeks.
The loss of jobs puts families at risk of homelessness and creates an even greater need for affordable housing.
“We have to get back to better than we were,” says Callahan Seltzer, LISC’s director of housing.. “We have to create more affordable housing. To do that, any recovery necessitates a strong, healthy ecosystem of affordable housing and housing providers.”
Advocates hope to see a large increase in federal rental assistance as well as an expansion of the HOME, Community Development Block Grant, and low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) programs.
Many of the existing federal programs are a proven delivery system, Seltzer says. “It’s the most effective way to reduce homelessness,” she says. “It’s the instability that we have to do deal with now because so many more people are in the category of housing unstable than they were a month or two ago, and so many more, without a federal influx of resources, will be in that bucket when they never thought they would be. We’ve got to fix that instability. That’s the first step toward a full recovery.”