July 30 was a victorious day for the affordable housing industry. President Bush signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008—what many are calling the most significant housing legislation in decades.
More Americans will get to remain in their homes, and neighborhoods hurt by the foreclosure crisis will be stabilized. A new federal regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has been created.
And the measure includes provisions that affordable housing and multifamily industry advocates have been pushing for years—the creation of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, changes to the low-income housing tax credit program, and a more balanced approach to housing policy.
This comes at an opportune time, not just because of the subprime crisis, but because the deficit of affordable housing units is in the millions and the need for those units continues to rise. In this issue, our cover story examines the loss in production of affordable housing and how this impacts social issues such as education, health, and business .
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in 2005 there were 9 million extremely low income renter households, those earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income, and yet there were only 6.2 million units affordable to them, leaving the nation with a shortage of 2.8 million units for this population.
We cannot continue to let our affordable housing stock disappear. The time is here to start making changes. It's crucial that the federal government work with the state and local officials and agencies to make more safe affordable housing available in a timely fashion.
Barbara Thompson, executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies, said there's tough work ahead and the state housing finance agencies (HFAs) are ready to use this legislation to create new affordable housing opportunities and to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes.
“State HFAs must now quickly deploy these new resources in ways that have the greatest impact on some of the toughest housing challenges our country has ever faced,” Thompson said.
Manny Diaz, mayor of Miami and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, also said the nation's mayors have pledged to help “serve and meet the needs of working families.”
“We request your directive to the appropriate agencies of your administration that the formula and distribution system be a clear and open process, with genuine consultation with the mayors to make certain that funds and services are provided to cities forthwith in a timely and equitable manner,” Diaz said in a statement to President Bush after the signing.
I encourage developers and owners to be in contact with your state HFAs and local officials to see how these provisions can help you create more housing for lowincome Americans.
On a side note, the cover story in this issue also looks at analysis from the Center for Housing Policy and Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., on the health and education benefits of children living in affordable housing.
I want to applaud the many affordable housing owners and developers who are including access to tutoring, afterschool homework centers, summer children's programs, on-site day care, and health programs. You are not just providing a place for these children to live. You are providing a healthy environment for them to thrive as well as a foundation for their future.