The new HUD budget marks a decisive break from the decade-long pattern of treating rental housing as the neglected stepchild of federal housing policy, but it doesn’t respond adequately to the growing need for rental assistance. This poses an enormous political challenge for the affordable housing community: how to help HUD push rental housing higher on the list of federal priorities.
To be clear, the budget is a major step forward. It provides enough funding for the major rental assistance programs to assist roughly the same number of families in 2010 as they do now. It also invests $1 billion in the new national Housing Trust Fund, which will preserve or develop about 29,000 rental housing units over five years. (Our preliminary analysis of the budget is available here.)
However, the budget lacks a strategy to make significant progress against what Secretary Donovan describes as the “structural gap between household incomes and housing prices and the persistent un-affordability of [rental] housing.” Moreover, those affordability problems are likely to worsen, as the unemployment rate is expected to continue rising in coming months.
What conclusion should the affordable housing community draw from this? HUD needs our help in persuading the rest of the Administration (as well as Congress) that expanding affordable rental housing should be major priority — a key strategy both to advance the Administration’s goals in education, energy, and health care and to help low-income Americans prosper.
Douglas Rice is a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which conducts research and analysis to help shape public debates over budget and tax policies and ensure that policymakers consider the needs of low-income families and individuals in these debates.