Several industry leaders issued statements following President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
Below is a roundup of reactions from Garth Rieman of the National Council of State Housing Authorities, Diane Yentel of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, David M. Dworkin of the National Housing Conference, and Matthew Chase of the National Association of Counties.
Garth Rieman, interim executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies:
We agree America is a nation of builders. The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) asks Congress and the administration to enact infrastructure legislation that supports the builders who produce desperately needed affordable homes for families ready to build their lives on the foundation a decent, affordable home provides. Affordable housing often leads directly to added security, quality education, health benefits, and proximity to good jobs.
Though we heard a little about the administration's infrastructure plan last night, we didn't hear anything to suggest it will directly address our nation's profound affordable housing crisis. Housing is infrastructure, and the administration's infrastructure plan should contain specific provisions to support building more affordable housing and preserving what we have now but are likely to lose without concerted action.
Too many people in our country today cannot find affordable housing near good jobs, schools, and health care—or anywhere for that matter. We need to address this crisis, which is holding back families from building their personal American Dreams. State housing finance agencies stand ready to help and have a proven track record in administering key affordable housing programs successfully.
Building affordable housing generates economic growth. Every home built tomorrow or the next day immediately creates well-paying jobs and, over time, additional employment, investment, and economic growth in our communities. It would be a shame for the administration and Congress to miss this infrastructure bill opportunity to help support affordable housing.
NCSHA strongly supports eliminating the caps on how much private-activity bond (PAB) authority states may allocate for housing bonds and other uses, which we understand is part of the administration's proposal but the president did not mention last night. Many states need more PAB authority to meet the demand for more affordable housing. We could make significant headway in producing more affordable housing and preserving existing affordable housing if the administration's proposal to eliminate the state PAB caps were enacted.
If this is a “New American Moment,” let's use it to provide affordable housing to the millions of people in our country who need it.
Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition:
In his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump failed to address the urgent need in America for more decent, safe, affordable homes for the lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, low-wage working families, and victims of recent disasters.
By noting his intent to “lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity,” the president previewed the administration’s planned efforts to cut federal housing benefits to low-income families by imposing arbitrary work requirements and other ineffective and costly measures. One of the biggest barriers to economic prosperity for the lowest-income families is a lack of decent, accessible, and affordable homes. Yet the administration will soon propose legislation to cut housing assistance for low-income residents by changing rent structures and imposing new punitive requirements. The president’s pending proposals are more about punishing low-income people than helping them.
These proposals could leave even more low-income people without a stable home, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder and live with dignity. Work requirements do not create the jobs and opportunities needed to lift families out of poverty but instead could cut struggling families off from the very housing stability and services that make it possible for them to find and maintain jobs. If the president is serious about helping lift struggling families out of poverty, he should focus on expanding—not slashing—investments in affordable homes, as well as increased wages, job training, education, and childcare.
The president failed to outline his plan to address one of the most pressing challenges facing low-income survivors of the recent hurricanes and wildfires: the need for longer-term, stable, safe places in which to live while they get back on their feet. The president addressed disaster victims by saying “we love you,” but what people impacted by 2017’s hurricanes and wildfires need most from the federal government is solutions to help them recover and rebuild, starting with affordable homes. It has been five months since the first hurricane made landfall, and the Trump administration has still not taken steps to stand up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to help the lowest-income families find longer-term housing solutions, secure employment, and connect to public benefits as they rebuild their lives. Without DHAP, tens of thousands of families are still living in hotels through FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance program and low-income families that have been shut out of the hotel program have had no choice but to move into uninhabitable or overcrowded homes, stay at shelters, or sleep in cars or on the streets. This is unacceptable.
President Trump called for a robust federal investment in the “infrastructure our economy needs and our people deserve” but has consistently failed to acknowledge that in addition to new and improved roads and bridges America needs a significant investment in the infrastructure of affordable rental homes. For every 100 of the lowest-income households in our country, there are just 35 rentals homes affordable and available to them. Any new infrastructure investment plan must include increased funding to the National Housing Trust Fund, a tool designed to increase the supply of affordable homes for those with the greatest needs; an expansion of Housing Choice Vouchers to help connect struggling families to areas of opportunity; and resources to repair and rehabilitate the nation’s public housing stock to preserve this asset for current tenants and future generations. Affordable rental homes for working families, seniors, and people with disabilities is foundational infrastructure. New and repaired roads and bridges must connect families living in decent, affordable homes to jobs, services, and communities.
President Trump called for increasing spending for the military, at the expense of the non-defense discretionary spending needed for affordable housing and community development. Congress must lift spending caps equally for defense and domestic priorities, including affordable housing and community development. America is stronger when every family has a healthy, accessible home they can afford. The low spending caps currently in place have only made it harder for Congress to make the investments needed to help families and communities thrive. Congress should work to lift these spending caps with parity for defense and domestic programs and provide robust housing and community development resources.
Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address missed the mark in addressing one of the nation’s most critical needs: ensuring that struggling low-income people have safe, affordable places to call home—to provide them the dignity, security, and opportunity that such homes provide. We can and must do better.
David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference:
President Trump has called for “our New American Moment,” declaring that “there has never been a better time to start living the American dream.” But there is no American dream without the American Home.
Home is the foundation of the American family; but that foundation is at risk of crumbling. Our housing infrastructure has deteriorated along with our roads, bridges and water systems, with devastating impact on every American. We need more opportunities for homeownership and more production of affordable rental units. President Trump’s voters are not going to experience the recovery as long as their homes are no longer wealth-building assets because the housing recovery has passed them by.
We can rebuild the infrastructure of the American home by increasing allocations to the National Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund—successful housing programs which are funded by the mortgage industry, not taxpayers. We can also rebuild it by increasing the allocation to the low-income housing tax creditit, the most effective public-private partnership in American history, which has successfully created over 3 million units of affordable housing since 1986. Expanding the housing tax credit will help make housing more affordable, create much-needed construction jobs, and improve neighborhoods across communities throughout the U.S.
Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties:
Our nation is blessed with many opportunities, yet we also face serious challenges, from the opioid epidemic to health care, from jobs to housing and infrastructure—and counties need a reliable federal partner to address them. Partnerships are critical when it comes to fulfilling our nation’s infrastructure needs.
Counties invest significantly in infrastructure—physical and human—roads and bridges, public facilities, water and sewer systems, broadband and telecommunications. We own and maintain 46% of all public road miles and 39% of the nation’s bridge inventory. We are involved in a third of the nation’s public transportation systems and airports that connect residents, communities, and businesses.
Investing in infrastructure means investing in every American community. With President Trump’s commitment to strengthening our infrastructure, we stand ready to work across the span of society—with the public, private, nonprofit sectors—to reinvest in our communities.
Counties represent America’s diversity—urban, suburban, rural, blue, red and everything in between. Regardless of these differences, we are united behind the mission of serving our residents. Now is the time for action, and we look forward to achieving results with our state and federal partners.