America’s affordable housing crisis has reached historic heights, most negatively impacting the most vulnerable among us. There are only 35 available and affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. This leaves most paying far more for their rent than they can afford, driving them even deeper into poverty. One in four renters – 11.4 million households – have extremely low incomes and cannot afford the rent.
The federal government already plays a significant role in addressing the problem, but it’s not strong enough considering the magnitude of the problem. Federal policy solutions such as Housing Choice Vouchers, the National Housing Trust Fund, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits are effective, but are chronically underfunded and face unprecedented threats. Today, only 1 out of 4 eligible households receive the help they need. Contrary to the false stereotypes, only 6% of households receiving housing aid are work able but not employed. Wages are simply much too low to afford a decent rental home without financial help. In fact, there are only 12 counties in America where a full-time worker on minimum wage can afford a one-bedroom rental.
A safe, decent, affordable home is a foundation of opportunity, but is out of reach for far too many individuals and families. But this is not just a problem that impacts the housing sector alone. Rather, its consequences spill over into many other sectors. Educators know that students are more likely to succeed when they live in a stable, affordable home. Health care providers see strong links between patients’ poor health and the perpetual stress, anxiety, and unstable and unhealthy living conditions created by the lack of an affordable home. Civil rights advocates understand that, to address racial and economic disparities, policies must promote affordable housing in inclusive neighborhoods, end residential segregation, and eliminate housing barriers and discrimination. Community leaders can better help marginalized working families climb up the income ladder and build wealth when high rents are no longer eating up most of their hard-earned paychecks. Housing is also essential to growing the economy, improving criminal justice outcomes, ensuring food security, meeting veterans’ needs, ending homelessness, and more.
Stakeholders across sectors are increasingly recognizing that housing is inextricably linked to their own priorities and goals, and housing advocates are increasingly recognizing that they can’t do this work alone. Going forward, a broad range of stakeholders from various sectors will be necessary to advance these beliefs as national and political priorities, and to work in a coordinated way to effectuate federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing.
That’s why the under-signed organizations have come together to support the creation and launch of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign and are committed to serving as members of the campaign’s Steering Committee. We need a national, multi-sector campaign to meet the housing needs of the nation’s struggling residents. We come from a wide range of sectors, each with our own perspectives and concerns. Yet we all understand the importance of housing within our respective fields, and we all believe that federal policies which protect and expand affordable housing will help us achieve our own respective goals.
Such policies would help bridge the growing gap between income and the rising cost of housing; provide aid to people experiencing job losses or other economic shocks to avert housing instability or homelessness; expand the affordable housing stock for low-income renters; and defend existing rental assistance and other targeted housing resources.
We are committed to promoting bold solutions wherever opportunities present themselves, and we will not hesitate to act against harmful cuts. America’s low-income households should have access to safe, decent, and stable affordable housing in neighborhoods where everyone has equitable opportunities to thrive.
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