A Plea to Finance the National Housing Trust Fund

"[A]ffordable housing remains one of America’s most vexing problems," states an editorial published last weekend in The Times. To help address this problem, the editors challenge the new Congress to finally finance the National Housing Trust Fund.
January 15, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Although funds allocated in the 2009 stimulus bill helped prevent or end homelessness for more than one million people, affordable housing remains an intractable problem across America. "[W]ith nearly 3.3 million families with children living in 'worst case' situations — spending more than half their incomes on housing or living in hazardous buildings — more must be done to create affordable housing, through rehabilitation or new construction," state the Times editors.

"For starters," they continue, "that means finally putting money into the National Housing Trust Fund, which was created by Congress in 2008 but was never financed because of the recession. This should be an early order of business for the new Congress. The fund, modeled on successful state programs, would provide subsidies and incentives to preserve, rehabilitate and build housing, primarily for extremely low-income families that earn about 30 percent of the average median incomes in their areas, typically spend more than half their incomes on rent and are disproportionately at risk of slipping into homelessness."

The fund was structured to "encourage healthy, mixed-income communities," and could help ease fast rising rents by stimulating the construction of multifamily rental buildings. Unfortunately, "financing was supposed to come from contributions by the federally backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That plan was suspended when the companies crashed. But with the two back on their feet, housing advocates are rightly pressing the Obama administration to reinstate that arrangement."

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Published on Saturday, January 12, 2013 in The New York Times
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