As the president and CEO of Rebuilding Together Alexandria, it is disheartening to see that the budget debate in Washington largely ignores the very real impact that spending cuts will have on communities throughout the nation.
Take the impact on housing. More people are struggling to maintain their home or pay their rent each month. New research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found a national shortage of more than 7 million apartments that are affordable to our nation’s 11 million families with extremely low incomes. This means that there are only 35 affordable apartments for every 100 extremely low income families. Because the mortgage or home maintenance or “rent eats first,” these families are forced to make harmful trade-offs and skimp on groceries, medical care, and other basic needs.
Every state and congressional district is directly impacted by this growing problem. Yet, low spending caps — required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — have already led to deep cuts to critical housing programs. Since 2010, HUD funding has been cut by $4.3 billion. The programs hardest hit include those that support housing construction, public housing, community development, and housing for our neighbors who are elderly or have disabilities.
While the White House and Congress have reached short-term agreements in recent years to provide some modest budgetary relief, harmful spending caps will return for the fiscal year 2018 budget. Add to that the additional cuts proposed by the President. Local jurisdictions will be put in the very hard position of determining what social services to fund that the new federal budget won’t.
Unless Congress acts, millions of low income families could be negatively impacted and thousands of families could lose access to stable housing, putting them at increased risk of homelessness.
The impact of these cuts will be felt nationwide and in Alexandria. Rebuilding Together Alexandria’s work in affordable homeownership preservation prevents hundreds of city homeowners from being one home maintenance bill away from a missed mortgage payment or bankruptcy or homelessness. By providing free home repairs, we enable our low-income Alexandrians, including the elderly, those with disabilities, veterans, and families with children, to remain stably housed in safe and sanitary conditions. Improved and stable housing conditions are not only critical for residents, but also for neighborhood revitalization and overall community health: multiple studies show strong connections between housing stability and improved student achievement, adult job productivity, and increased well-being.
It is time for the President and Congress to lift these arbitrary low spending caps that have done little to address our nation’s debt problem, but which continue to undermine critical pieces of the federal safety net including housing. Policymakers need to look at the harm these spending cuts have on our communities, and not just numbers on a page.
Rebuilding Together Alexandria