President Obama delivered the 221st State of the Union amid a house divided and a recovering economy. It is not surprising that the President focused his speech around the economy and fiscal policy. However, the SOTU left much to be desired in terms of direct references to unemployment and housing. Fiscal policy is important but the question of unemployment is more urgent and personal.
Jeremy Rosen, Policy Director, for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty summed Obama’s remarks on housing, or lack thereof, best with:
“. . . (Housing was mentioned) but only as part of an argument for government consolidation, premised on a belief that too many federal agencies focus on housing. Would that this were true. Where was any mention of the foreclosures that continue to plague American communities, with the related simple pledge to release $1 billion in federal funds to help temporarily unemployed or sick homeowners pay their mortgages and avoid losing their homes? This is money that Congress already gave to the Administration that will expire at the end of September with the federal fiscal year. Not to mention, there wasn’t any promise of finding additional funds.”
However, NHC along with our partners at Reconnecting America, do applaud President Obama for his remarks in regard to his support for high-speed rail, improved infrastructure, and, in particular, development around rail stations. Transit oriented development (TOD) has always been a priority of the National Housing Conference. We strive to preserve and expand the availability of housing that is permanently affordable to low- and moderate- income families near public transit, jobs and retail centers. Creating affordable housing for all in America is not just about four walls and a roof. It is about much more than that. It is about the quality of life and the utility of resources (public transit, education, job centers, retail) around that home.
Reducing unemployment is critical, but just as critical is the need to better connect the essential workers in communities (teachers, nurses, police officers) with safe, decent and affordable housing near their place of employment.