Friday, August 30, 2013

Moving Forward: Reflections on a Decade of Research at the Center for Housing Policy

by Jeffrey Lubell, Director of Housing Initiatives, Abt Associates

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.


For my last Moving Forward column, I thought it would be useful to review the long-term trajectory of several lines of research at the Center for Housing Policy over the past decade and see what lessons might be learned for future research efforts. When I made a similar presentation to the NHC Board of Governors, one member said it underscored why he was a member of NHC. He encouraged me to share this presentation more broadly, prompting this column.

I focus here on two lines of research—the housing challenges facing working households and the combined burdens of housing and transportation costs. Research on both fronts began before I joined the Center and I did my best to take the next logical steps. By methodically building the research base for concrete policy recommendations in each area, I believe we helped move the field forward. 

Housing Challenges Facing Working Households 

The Center started focusing on the growing housing challenges facing teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other workers more than a decade ago. Building on initial research by Michael Stegman, Roberto Quercia and George McCarthy, and continuing with research by Joseph Harkness, Sandra Newman and Barbara Lipman, the Housing America’s Working Families series showed how housing problems were creeping up the income ladder and reaching a broader share of the U.S. population. By calling attention to the challenges facing working households through these publications, and subsequently through the Housing Landscape series and the Paycheck to Paycheck database, the Center encouraged broader political support for efforts to make housing affordable.

When I arrived at the Center in 2006 and published findings from the latest Paycheck and Landscape reports, reporters wanted to know what could be done to address these challenges. To answer these questions, we reviewed high impact housing solutions to assist working households and quickly zeroed in on local and state housing policies as having the biggest potential for helping working households. The policy framework developed for this paper formed the backbone for the housing affordability toolkit on HousingPolicy.org, a new online guide to local and state housing policy we launched to expand awareness of these important policy options. We subsequently expanded the HousingPolicy.org toolbox to address additional policy objectives including improving residential energy efficiency, meeting the housing challenges of older adults, helping to improve disaster resistance, and fostering equitable and sustainable development. Working in partnership with LISC and the Urban Institute, we also launched a companion site, Foreclosure-Response.org, focused on helping to prevent foreclosures and strengthen affected neighborhoods.

HousingPolicy.org has proven to be a valuable platform for highlighting promising local and state housing policies, which have essential roles to play in meeting the housing challenges facing working households and others. Given today’s budgetary realities, we’ve focused in particular on solutions that carry little or no out-of-pocket costs or allow localities to serve more households with constant funding, including shared equity homeownership, lifecycle underwriting, and inclusionary housing.

These and other promising local and state housing policies will be the focus of the Solutions 2013 –National Conference on State and Local Housing Policy on September 16-18 in Atlanta. The agenda for this conference is extremely strong and well worth the price of admission. If you can fit it in your schedule, come join the conversation and share, learn and connect!

Combined Costs of Housing and Transportation

In 2005, the Center published Something’s Gotta Give, which examined the consequences of living in unaffordable housing. The Center expected to find that households living in unaffordable housing had less to spend on nutritious food and health care, but the most pronounced and surprising finding was that these households spent much less on transportation. To better understand this finding, the Center commissioned a series of follow-up studies, leading to the publication of A Heavy Load, which documented the combined burdens of housing and transportation costs on working households, along with similar analyses for the Bay Area and DC and Boston metro areas. The combined burden of housing and transportation has grown over time, as confirmed in the most recent paper in this series, Losing Ground, which the Center released earlier this year in partnership with the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

I joined the Center midway through the preparation of A Heavy Load. While I was skeptical at first on the need to focus on transportation costs, the data have won me over. Given how much families trade-off between housing and transportation costs – for example, moving far from work to find lower-cost housing, only to incur higher transportation costs – it is clear to me that the combined costs paint a more complete picture of affordability than housing costs alone.

Building on this research, NHC has worked with a range of partners to develop and advocate for recommendations for preserving affordable housing near planned transit stations and ensuring that a share of new development in these areas is affordable. In a major policy victory for NHC and its partners, the Federal Transit Administration recently agreed to modify the criteria for awarding New Starts grants for new and expanded transit capacity to include incentives for affordable housing preservation and development near planned stations. We have also documented other policy options for reducing the combined costs of housing and transportation that can be implemented at the local, regional and state levels.

Lessons Learned

I draw two main conclusions from this review. First, there is real value in taking a long-term perspective on research, seeing one study as building on the next to broaden understanding of a particular issue. Second, research can play an important role in laying the groundwork for policy development by suggesting new ways of looking at old problems, identifying key issues that need to be addressed and identifying promising approaches.

While space does not permit a broader examination of the Center’s research agenda, I think the same basic conclusions apply to the Center’s research on the role that affordable housing plays in advancing health, education, asset-building and other social objectives.

Staying in Touch

I leave the next steps in the evolution of the Center’s research agenda in the able hands of my successor, Lisa Sturtevant, the new Director of the Center and NHC's Vice President for Research, and Chris Estes, the President and CEO of NHC. With their leadership, NHC and the Center are well positioned to make strong contributions to the field over the next decade!

Thank you all for your interest in the Center’s work over the years and your input into our work and agenda. Special thanks to our funders for their invaluable support for our research!

My last day at the Center was August 10. My new position is Director of Housing Initiatives at Abt Associates. Please stay in touch by following me on Twitter @JeffreyLubell or by email at Jeffrey_Lubell@Abtassoc.com.

Jeffrey Lubell is Director of Housing Initiatives at Abt Associates, a public policy and business research and consulting firm. He was Executive Director of the Center for Housing Policy, NHC's research affiliate, from 2006 until this year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

”Living wage” laws provide insight into unaffordable costs of living

Even with raise on the table, workers struggle to make ends meet

by Vanessa Newman, National Housing Conference

The cost of living near jobs, transit and amenities keeps growing in many American cities, while the minimum wage stays the same. The Center’s latest edition of Paycheck to Paycheck, detailing housing costs and wages for workers in 76 different jobs in hundreds of cities nationwide, just came out August 15, highlighting the gap even full-time workers face between how much they take home and how much they need to cover the rent or mortgage. At least partly in response to the growing need for housing affordability, cities including Chicago and Washington, D.C., are considering or already have enacted “living wage” laws to force large retailers to pay higher wages to workers. Perhaps it’s time to talk about what makes living in high-cost markets so unaffordable, what the minimum wage was designed to do, where it’s failed, and what we can do to help minimum- and low-wage workers make ends meet in communities nationwide.

Seem cheap for Park Avenue? It was even
cheaper than it seems. Consider that
in this apartment ad from the 1930s, the
rent listed was per year, not per month.
The first federal minimum wage was set in 1938 at $0.25 per hour and, although the minimum wage was never pegged to automatically rise with the cost of living, the law was written with the intention that Congress would do so. Between 1938 and the time of the last minimum wage hike in 2009, the minimum wage rose from 25¢ per hour ($3.80 per hour in 2013 dollars) to $7.25/hr. Minimum wage growth has outpaced inflation over the long-term, so it would seem that low-wage workers should be better off now than they were in the past (at least better than they were in 1938). However, certain crucial costs of living, such as housing and transportation, have grown even faster than the minimum wage, taking up a growing share of the household budgets of low-wage workers. In 1938, the significantly poor or underprivileged could rent a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel room. Moderate-wage workers could easily afford an apartment even in commercial hub cities. In 1930s New York, for example, rent on the average apartment ran, on average, $45 per month in the currency of the day (equivalent to about $750 per month in today’s dollars). Today, SRO hotels and boarding houses are scarce, and the equivalent price of an apartment in New York today would be about $3,500 per month. This would mean the inflation in the New York housing market has increased nearly 8,000%, outstripping the rate at which minimum wage was ever expected to increase.

With housing inflation being so off the charts in comparison to the increase rate of minimum wage, not just in New York, but increasingly in urban cities, D.C.’s “Large Retailer Accountability Act of 2013”, which passed in July, is progress. The bill requires all retailers operating stores at least 75,000 square feet and whose corporate parent has sales of at least $1 billion to pay wages no less than $12.50/hr. Although that probably doesn’t affect the majority of businesses in the district, for some, that $4.75 difference may seem like a blessing. A blessing it may be, but that additional $4.75 simply still isn’t enough to bring housing costs within reach of those getting the increase. According to that fresh Paycheck to Paycheck data, the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the D.C. metro area is $1,328 per month, requiring an annual income of $53,120 to make it affordable. And while D.C. is experiencing a major construction boom, most new home construction in the city is of luxury apartments and condominiums, doing nothing to increase the supply of affordable housing and causing housing costs in once-affordable neighborhoods to rise rapidly.

Let’s use Wal-Mart as an example of being one of the companies affected by the new act. Wal-Mart employs salespeople, food prep staff and janitors, all job categories offering wages not much above minimum wage, which comes out to about $15,000 a year. However welcome an additional $4.75 an hour would be to help these workers meet their household budgets, it’s not enough to help cover the full cost of housing in an expensive housing market like D.C. That $4.75 raise would bring up workers’ annual pay to about $26,000, still only about half of what they’d need to make to afford the rent on a one-bedroom apartment, and that’s just to cover rent, not including transportation, food, healthcare, etc.

Moving farther away from job centers to areas with a cheaper average housing costs isn’t an answer, either; according to the Center’s 2012 report Losing Ground, adding transportation costs necessary to cover a long commute can make outlying areas some of the most expensive parts of a metro area when transportation costs are factored in.

Despite the efforts of D.C.’s Large Retailer Accountability Act, it simply isn’t enough, for those affected by the change, and those working in smaller retail businesses won’t be able to enjoy the raise at all. If we’re being realistic, change isn’t going to happen overnight, and although a raise in minimum wage is a bit of progress, it is infeasible to believe at this time, the government is going to take on a minimum wage reform to catch low-wage workers up entirely with the costs of living they face.

One venue of progress-making, more practical than a federal minimum wage hike, is adopting housing policies that benefit low-income residents living in these high-cost-of-living areas. Many options require federal action, but many other options can be enacted at the state and local levels.

Increasing housing vouchers for more families who may not be eligible but should be and providing services to help assist families in finding low-income housing is one action. Increasing the supply of Tax Credit and public housing for families on vouchers and of low-income to be able to have homes to find is another action we can take. Enacting zoning codes or providing incentives for builders to construct mixed-income housing, especially in income-diverse areas such as D.C., to maintain housing equality is another action we strive for. Funding bills that show promise in making progress in improving and expanding affordable housing or advocating for these policies to are both solutions to the issue of affordable housing.

Through these efforts of pushing for more affordable housing and income equality, we hope to create more environments where the cost of living will be truly affordable not just to those earning a livable wage, but minimum wage as well.

Vanessa Newman was a summer Marketing and Communications intern with the National Housing Conference. The Maryland native's last day was August 22, 2013, when she returned to American University to continue her studies.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A crucial time for America to discuss housing

by Dave Brown, Executive Director, National NeighborWorks Association

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

This is an extraordinary time for the future of housing – and especially affordable housing – in America and a crucial time to expand the public discussion of housing as a national priority. A series of potent interlocking dynamics have been set in motion, and they can and should be used to engage the American people in a positive discussion of the power of home in our nation.

Dave Brown speaks at an NNA event.
Those dynamics include the following: the housing market is now returning; valuable lessons have been learned from the recent housing collapse; the Congress left for its August recess without acting on the appropriations bills covering the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and President Obama has just released an extensive set of proposals to create a better bargain for housing for the middle class.

The return of the housing market is, of course, good news for the overall economy and for homeowners, even though it makes finding affordable housing an even greater challenge. As it restarts the economy, it’s important to learn from the recession – both to ensure that we don’t repeat our errors and to increase the positive impact that housing can have in our communities.

President Obama is fortunately advancing the public discussion of housing with his latest proposals. They further reinforce housing as a national priority and encourage a robust discussion of housing needs and challenges and what the nation should do to address them. While Congress’s inaction on the housing appropriations bills is disappointing, it does allow time for Americans to let their Members of Congress hear, while they are home on vacation, just how important housing is to them.

Housing is key to sustaining America’s economic recovery, not simply because rising home values create equity, optimism and jobs, but because stable affordable housing is vital to the thriving lives and communities on which our nation depends. Stable affordable homes enable children and adults to be more productive, learn more effectively, and lead healthier and safer lives.

Increasingly, housing is also expected to assist in other societal innovations. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “To bring down its soaring Medicaid budget, New York state wants to move thousands of low-income patients from hospitals, homeless shelters, group homes and nursing facilities into apartments... [T]he patients would live in what is known as supportive-housing apartments, which provide services such as counseling, budgeting help and coordination of medical care.”

The vital role that housing can and could play – and the potential breadth of its positive impact – is what we need the American people to appreciate – that such housing benefits the community broadly and fundamentally. In the absence of that understanding, federal funding of crucial housing programs has been cut significantly since fiscal year 2010. Examples include cuts to the HOME program by 48%, to HUD housing counseling by 51%, and to Community Development Block Grants by 31%.

Building greater public awareness of the importance of home is the mission of a new movement called Home Matters™ (www.HomeMattersAmerica.com). It’s a unique national initiative that aims to unite America around the essential role that Home plays as the bedrock for thriving lives, communities, and a stronger nation. The movement was launched in March in Washington, DC – spearheaded by the National NeighborWorks® Association, with crucial support from Citi Community Development and Wells Fargo.

Joining in the launch of Home Matters were U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, who represented a broad political spectrum. Their collective presence underscored that Home Matters no matter what your political beliefs.

The power of stable affordable homes – whether rented or owned – is something on which all Americans should be able to agree. We have all either benefited from it or understood how devastating its absence can be.

That power is something about which we should all be talking – with our friends, our colleagues, and our elected officials. With enough recognition, housing might just have the power to unite the nation as well.

Dave Brown is Executive Director of the National NeighborWorks® Association. The National NeighborWorks Association, an NHC member, is an advocate for better neighborhoods and housing for low to middle income families across the United States and is the voice of NeighborWorks organizations nationwide.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The links between service-enriched housing and the Housing Credit


by Bill Kelly, President, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future

NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest posters do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.


On August 27, the Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a forum in Columbus, Ohio as part of its effort to promote key elements of the report of its Housing Commission, issued earlier this year. This session will highlight the Commission's recommendations on two key topics. The first is the role of service-enriched housing in enabling residents to improve the quality of their lives The second is protecting and expanding the low-income housing tax credit in recognition of its role in meeting the capital cost of building and maintaining affordable rental housing.

The design of the forum is to feature, with local examples, what the recommendations mean in practice and to continue the thought process for turning the broad ideas of the report into workable programs. Congressman Pat Tiberi of Ohio, who Chairs the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, will deliver the keynote address.

One panel will build on the work of SAHF, its member National Church Residences, and the State of Ohio in making it possible for vulnerable, low-income seniors to age in community settings and for people with disabilities to flourish in such settings, all at lower cost to the health care system and with greater resident satisfaction than in institutional settings. Two other panels will feature discussions of the central role of the tax credit in affordable housing finance and review recent innovations in the use of the credit. In each case, the panel will highlight Ohio examples.

Importantly, these two themes—housing with services and the role of the tax credit—are themselves interrelated. Even as we work to make affordable housing serve needy populations as more than just shelter, we need to build and periodically rehabilitate the physical structures. Developer and investor innovation have made the tax credit, already a proven engine for affordable housing production, into a flexible tool that can finance service enriched housing. It remains to expand the tax credit so that it comes closer to meeting the need and to connect the housing with more reliable funding for essential services, including health and wellness services. The forum is an opportunity to pursue both goals.

Bill Kelly is President of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF), a consortium of national nonprofit affordable housing providers serving 100,000 households in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Happens When a Full-Time Paycheck Is Not Enough for Housing?

by Maya Brennan, Center for Housing Policy

Despite full-time work, people across the nation face problems affording a place to live. And by "people" I don't mean your hypothetical median-income-earner, I mean auto mechanics, hotel front desk managers, flight attendants, housekeepers, and wait staff. Also, firefighters, social workers, nurses, truck drivers and many other of the people we all need serving our communities.

Low-income workers clearly fare the worst in metro housing markets. Just try to afford an apartment, even one bedroom, on a housekeeper’s salary. Across every single one of the 207 metro areas included in Paycheck to Paycheck, a housekeeper can’t afford the two-bedroom fair market rent. Even shifting down to just a one-bedroom usually doesn’t help. Just 17 out of 207 metros had one-bedroom fair market rents that were affordable on typical housekeeper wages.

But even jobs with seemingly good earnings, like flight attendants, face housing affordability problems in high-cost destinations. The San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles metro areas are among 25 across the country in which a flight attendant cannot affordably buy a median-priced home.

Wages, home prices, and rents are not aligned. How do we solve this?

The answer is not just a single fix-it. Education and training programs can help workers access better paying jobs, but job advancement can only help so much in high-cost areas. And let’s not forget that lower-wage jobs, like wait staff and housekeepers, are an essential part of keeping the nation running. Higher pay would be great, but ensuring continued access to affordable housing programs is crucial as well.

Until wages catch up with housing expenses, let’s keep pushing for smart and holistic solutions.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Does the upbeat news on home prices extend to housing affordability?

by Janet Viveiros, Center for Housing Policy

I have spent the last few weeks staring at the spreadsheets that will ultimately become Paycheck to Paycheck 2013 (which will be released later this month), I have been thinking about how housing affordability is faring in the housing market recovery. Paycheck to Paycheck is an interactive online database that evaluates the affordability of renting or buying typical homes for workers in over 70 occupations.

Much like in March, I have noticed that the headlines on housing seem dominated by discussion of a housing market rebound. However, the good news on house prices does not quite align with the numbers that represent housing affordability in all the spreadsheets I have been looking at for Paycheck to Paycheck.

As hopeful as it might be to read stories about a housing market recovery, it is important to look beyond home prices and think more broadly about housing costs. Housing affordability is not just a function of home prices, mortgage rates, or rents, but also income. Can households at all income levels afford to buy or rent a home? Do mortgage payments or rent comprise more than 30 percent (widely accepted standard of housing affordability) of a household’s income?

Based on median wages for over 70 occupations and median home prices and fair market rents in over 200 metros for Paycheck to Paycheck 2013, we found that workers often cannot afford to buy a modest home or rent a typical unit in their area. In the 15 metropolitan areas with the most expensive housing markets, median wage workers in less than 20 percent of the occupations we examined can affordably buy a median-priced home. Even, in places where home prices are relatively affordable, it is often difficult for households to save up for a downpayment or access credit.

Households even have challenges in affording two-bedroom apartments in many places. Typical rent for a two-bedroom is unaffordable for workers in almost 75 percent of the occupations in the 20 metropolitan areas with the most expensive rental markets.

Wages have stagnated for American workers in the past few years despite the economy beginning to recover. This squeezes workers and makes saving for down payments and managing rising housing costs very difficult. Many households have to cut back on essentials such as healthcare, food, and education or move far from job centers and endure long and costly commutes.

Rising home prices in many housing markets around the country will not resolve housing affordability obstacles on their own. Communities must proactively work to meet the housing needs of their residents. Communities require solutions tailored to local conditions and there are many tools available to help policy makers and stakeholders improve housing affordability, such as HousingPolicy.org, and opportunities to learn about the successes of other communities at events like NHC’s upcoming Solutions Conference in Atlanta.

While the progress made in slowing foreclosures and stabilizing neighborhoods is important progress, there is still more hard work needed to ensure that every household can afford a safe and decent home.

To learn more about housing affordability challenges facing workers, check back at the Open House Blog in mid-August to read about Paycheck to Paycheck 2013 when it is released.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Statement in response to President Obama’s housing speech in Phoenix

NHC calls for renewed focus on critical housing challenges

President Obama today addressed the critical housing challenges that our country is working to overcome as we emerge from an historic housing crisis and recession. Federal efforts over the last four years have done much to encourage a housing recovery and help those in need, but much more remains to be done. The National Housing Conference (NHC) welcomes the President’s attention to housing issues, and we encourage further federal action to help households and neighborhoods recover.

“Housing must be at the center of our national economic recovery, just as it was at the center of the crisis,” said NHC President and CEO Chris Estes.

NHC believes that the recovery must reach all those in need. In cities and towns with booming new industries, there must be affordable housing options for those of low and moderate means. In neighborhoods rebuilding from waves of foreclosure, there must be help to break the cycle of disinvestment. For people working hard to afford a safe, decent place to live, there must be affordable rental housing. For families looking for their first home, there must be reliable, sustainable mortgages they can afford. For those without anywhere to call home, there must be outreach, services, and permanent supportive housing to get them back on their feet.

“It is important to recognize that everyone in a community benefits when their housing market is stabilized and healthy, neither of which are possible without these interventions,” said Estes.

NHC welcomes the President’s proposals that would:
  • Create a new mortgage finance system that uses use a limited and explicit government role to ensure reliable access to long-term fixed-rate mortgages, finance for multifamily housing nationwide, and support for affordable housing.
  • Restore neighborhoods damaged by the foreclosure crisis, building on the successes and lessons learned from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the Hardest Hit Fund, and the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program.
  • Create and preserve affordable rental housing in cities, suburbs and rural areas across the country, which requires a federal budget sufficient to invest in these essential needs, and preservation of key tax provisions like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
  • Expand refinancing options to help families stay in their home and reduce housing cost burdens.
  • Clarify mortgage rules to expand access and affordability while bringing certainty and transparency to lending markets, thereby ensuring that mortgage lending serves all responsible borrowers, not just those with wealth and pristine credit.
The President is also right to point to state and local governments as gatekeepers of housing and land use decisions. They can also be sources of innovation to find better ways to create and preserve affordable housing. NHC is committed to helping states and localities find housing policy solutions that create affordable housing options for all in America.

These are among NHC’s central policy priorities. We and our members look forward to assisting the President, agency staff, and the Congress implement these and others solutions in coming months.

Monday, August 5, 2013

President Obama to make housing speech in Phoenix tomorrow

Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

President Obama flies to Phoenix, Arizona, tomorrow to address the nation’s housing challenges. Although we do not yet have details, we expect that he will look at the remaining housing needs and the progress made since the housing crash, while setting it in the context of his push for a better bargain for the middle class. Since Phoenix was the site of his address four years ago announcing a response to the housing crisis, expect the rhetoric to resonate with the great changes that have occurred. Reuters has an excellent piece today setting the speech in a Phoenix context.

The White House invites homeowners, renters, and prospective buyers to ask questions about housing via video and social media for President Obama to answer in a conversation moderated by Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow. For details about how to submit questions now, see the White House Blog.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Dysfunction in appropriations: THUD bills halt before August recess

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

The news on housing appropriations is decidedly a mixed bag. The House failed to pass its Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill as a result of strong stakeholder reactions to the damagingly low funding levels. The Senate bill, which had significantly higher funding, failed to achieve 60 votes for cloture yesterday, which means the bill will not move forward. So, going into the August recess, a continuing resolution for THUD looks much more likely this year.

Many of the political signs from the THUD appropriations debate point to growing opposition to the unrealistic funding levels proposed by the House. House Republican leadership failed to line up enough votes for passage and so pulled the bill from consideration. President Obama threatened to veto the House THUD bill. Strong stakeholder opposition supported these outcomes, notably via the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, of which NHC is a member (see this letter to the Senate as an example). However, once the House bill failed, pressure intensified on Senate Republicans to prevent a Senate THUD bill from coming to the floor. The result is no bill passed in either House of Congress and little prospect for movement in September.

In a startling break with House leadership, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers pointed to the failure of the THUD bill as a sign that sequestration must come to an end. He called for a “comprehensive compromise that repeals sequestration, takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, reduces our deficits and debt, and provides a realistic topline discretionary spending level to fund the government in a responsible – and attainable – way.” With another debt ceiling battle looming and partisan lines forming on the budget, such a comprehensive compromise seems a distant hope.