Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Budget forum highlights the value of affordable housing investments

by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

Last week, we held our Annual Budget Forum, but instead of an in-person event just for folks on Capitol Hill, this year’s forum allowed everyone to participate via webinar. With great attendance in our new format, the discussion focused on the importance and value of federal investment in affordable housing. Laura Hogshead, HUD’s deputy chief of staff for budget and policy, discussed a number of promising policy changes as well as higher funding levels within HUD’s proposed FY 2016 budget. We also had a great panel of practitioners sharing their understanding of how federal funding helps create and preserve affordable housing:

While the HUD budget request proposes welcome increases in funding levels, given the difficult budget environment with the return of sequestration and potential challenges like debt ceiling negotiations, HUD funding for FY 2016 is very uncertain. The affordable housing community needs to advocate together for greater funding at the highest step in the waterfall—the 302(a) and (b) allocations that guide the appropriations committees—as Ethan Handelman, NHC’s vice president for policy and advocacy discussed on the webinar. The need for greater affordable housing funding is especially important given the intersection of housing with other issues as described by Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, NHC’s vice president for research and director of our Center for Housing Policy. Dr. Sturtevant’s presentation highlighted research findings that stable housing leads to better education outcomes, improved health and increased economic self-sufficiency for families.

The most interactive part of the budget forum was our panelists’ discussion on the value of federal housing programs from the state, public housing, homeless and developer perspectives. They highlighted how states deploy a variety of federal programs to meet many different housing needs; how we are making progress to end homelessness largely because of federal commitment and resources made available for that purpose; how public housing serves our most vulnerable families and can improve their circumstances; and how developers leverage federal resources effectively to create affordable housing. The theme from all four panelists was that demand for affordable housing far exceeds the supply.

The continuing need for affordable housing, its positive impacts on residents and the difficult budget environment highlight the need to advocate together for sequestration relief and greater funding.  NHC is part of the early effort by the NDD United campaign to reach out to members of Congress. We are also active in the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding.  Together, housing stakeholders should seek out nontraditional allies and emphasize with members of Congress how investments in affordable housing pay incredible tangible and intangible dividends. Presentations from NHC’s 2015 Budget Forum are available here and the recording from the event is available here.

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