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NLIHC Response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address
WASHINGTON - January 26 - In last night’s state of the union address, President Obama called for investment in innovation, education and infrastructure to spur job growth and sustain America’s leadership in the world. He offered a five year freeze on domestic discretionary spending to begin to bring down the federal deficit, but said that we must “make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
“I applaud the President’s vision for the future, especially his emphasis on assuring our children have the best possible education,” said NLIHC President Sheila Crowley. “But children cannot make the most of what their schools have to offer if their families lack safe and stable homes. I hope that the President intends to include affordable housing in the list of infrastructure improvements and to spare safety net housing programs from the spending freeze.”
Despite signs that the economy is improving, the housing crisis that precipitated the recession continues. Not only are people still losing their homes to foreclosure, the longstanding shortage of rental homes that the lowest income families can afford has grown during the recession. Between 2007 and 2009, the shortage of rental units that are both affordable and available for households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median grew from 5.2 to 6 million.
Homelessness among families has grown more than any other segment of the homeless population. The number of people who doubled-up, that is, had to move in with family or friends, increased by 12% between 2008 and 2009. Children in poor families are more likely to change schools during the school year, impeding academic success.
Directing more resources to solve the housing problems of the lowest income families will create more jobs in construction, which has a 20% rate of unemployment, over twice the overall rate of 9.4%. We have an unprecedented opportunity to build and repurpose existing vacant and underutilized housing with a hungry labor force and primed industry.
The National Housing Trust Fund is an infrastructure program that will reduce the shortage of affordable rental homes, create thousands of jobs, and bring immediate gains to national, state and local economies. And it is possible to do so without adding to the deficit.
One of the most expensive and inefficient federal expenditures is the mortgage interest deduction, which the President’s Fiscal Commission proposed to reform. Changing it from a tax deduction to a tax credit and lowering the size of mortgage to which the credit can be applied as the commission proposed would save tens of billions of dollars a year, which could be redirected to capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund and expand housing assistance for the most vulnerable families.
“On behalf of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, I look forward to working with the Obama Administration and Congress to strengthen our economy, protect our most vulnerable citizens, and create the conditions necessary for our children to excel,” said Crowley.