Our nation has had a wild ride leading up to yesterday’s announcement of President Obama’s re-election. A special thanks to our Resident Services staff throughout the country for making sure that Mercy Housing residents were registered to vote and informed about their civic rights and responsibilities.
Congress and the President have some huge issues to tackle immediately to prevent the nation from going over the fiscal cliff. The first, across-the-board sequestration cuts of 8.2% or more to all federal government programs, will take effect January 1, 2013, unless Congress passes a balanced package of revenues and cuts in its place. Then, they will have to address the debt ceiling, pass the 2013 budget and reform the tax code. It’s a lot to do in six months, especially for a Congress that continues to be much divided along partisan lines!
There are three major areas that we believe this Administration needs to focus on right away in order to continue to strengthen our nation’s economy and provide more affordable housing options for families and individuals in need:
- Foreclosure Prevention. While the housing market is starting to show signs of improvement, foreclosure prevention is still a major issue threatening many households in our country. In his last term President Obama launched a Foreclosure to Rental pilot program as well as several loan modification programs for underwater homeowners. The programs work with banks to modify loans, with matching funds and housing counseling provided by government and nonprofits. Nonprofits can compete in place-based auctions of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) properties, as Mercy Housing is doing in Chicago through its Mortgage Resolution Fund partnership. We only hope that more attention will be given to this critical issue during this time of economic recovery.
- HUD. The Obama Administration has attracted great talent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), who has actively reached out to partner with nonprofits like Mercy Housing. While the Administration has continued to invest in HUD, Section 8 renewals account for 85% of their resources and growing, so controlling Section 8 costs is going to be a major challenge in the near future. WE hope that The Obama Administration will continue to focus on addressing neighborhoods in distress through programs like HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program which recently awarded $300,000 to Mercy Housing’s Sunnydale development in San Francisco to support our work in this much-needed community. Additionally, we hope President Obama will continue his plans to support housing priorities like Project Based Section 8, and link housing programs with other federal agencies such as the Veterans Administration, Health and Human Service, and Transportation.
- Jobs. Employment is one of the biggest drivers of the need for affordable housing. While President Obama has already created 4.6 million jobs, much more needs to be done to help families and individuals find stability. President Obama plans to increase infrastructure investment, hire more state & local workers, double the payroll tax cut, and create new tax cuts for small businesses and companies that hire new workers.
There is a lot of work ahead of us and Mercy Housing is up for the challenge. We welcome all the newly elected leaders and hope that we can all come together across party lines to close the gap that exists between the supply and demand for affordable housing and strengthen communities for families and individuals throughout the country.
Julie Gould is Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at Mercy Housing, a national nonprofit working in the development, preservation, management and/or financing of affordable, program-enriched housing across the country. Mercy Housing is an NHC member. This piece was originally posted on the Mercy Housing Blog and has been republished with permission here.