For Immediate Release
Statement From NLIHC President Sheila Crowley on President Obama’s March 24 News Conference Question on Homelessness
WASHINGTON - I am pleased that President Obama was asked Tuesday evening about the plight of families experiencing homelessness as a result of the economic downturn, and heartened that in his response, the President reaffirmed that it is "not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours."
The proliferation of tent cities across the country is the latest manifestation of the shame of homelessness in the United States.
As the President noted, homelessness was a problem before the recession. Nationwide, there is an absolute shortage of housing that families with the lowest incomes can afford. For every 100 renter households with extremely low incomes, there are just 38 homes affordable and available to them. This means that families spend more than they can afford on rent or the mortgage each month, and it means that the loss of a job or a medical or other emergency can be absolutely devastating, possibly forcing them on to the streets.
With increased unemployment comes an increase in the number of people in poverty. For every ten people who live below the poverty line, one will become homeless. If the unemployment rate reaches 9%, another 1.5 million people will become homeless in the next two years.
President Obama's recently released budget offers hope to families living so close to the edge. Included in the request is $1 billion in inaugural funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, which was signed into law as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. When funded, the National Housing Trust Fund will provide communities with funds to build, rehabilitate and preserve housing for people with the lowest incomes. It will be the first new federal housing production program to serve extremely low income families since 1974.
In addition, the new Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that was recently funded at $1.5 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helps to keep families or individuals who are at risk of homelessness to keep a roof over their heads. The assistance can be used for rent, utility payments, moving and transitional costs, and case management. The funding may also be used for hotel or motel vouchers. During a time that many Americans face unemployment and rising costs, this funding is critical to keeping people in their homes.
But much more is needed to prevent the predicted surge in homelessness. Substantial new investment in building of affordable rental homes is required beyond the $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund; we recommend $5 billion a year. Also needed are more housing vouchers of at least 200,000 in the next fiscal year.
We look forward to the day when homelessness will no longer be the ultimate consequence of the shortage of housing that is affordable to the lowest income people in the United States, and when every American will have access to a safe, affordable home. We must no longer tolerate a housing shortage of the magnitude we now face.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to ending America’s affordable housing crisis. Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, NLIHC educates, organizes and advocates to ensure decent, affordable housing within healthy neighborhoods for everyone. NLIHC provides up-to-date information, formulates policy and educates the public on housing needs and the strategies for solutions.