Posts Tagged ‘Affordable Housing’

Madison poor getting left out of stimulus

July 17, 2009

Of all the grandstanding we hear from politicians about rescuing homeowners, including proposals from Rep. Paul Ryan to insure all mortgage holders, the nation seems to have forgotten the people who are not only too poor to own homes, but are often too poor to pay rent.

The impact can be seen in right here in Madison, where the city is being forced to dip into reserve funds to help low-income tenants because the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has cut funding for low-income housing assistance.

Because money from the feds has gone down, the city’s Community Development Authority was planning on simply reducing subsidies to tenants, which would have caused rent hikes for many residents. However, Ald. Michael Schumacher apparently found the idea unacceptable, and has now proposed an ordinance to allow the city to temporarily use money from the “Affordable Housing Trust Fund” to help low-income tenants through September. Ordinarily, the fund is meant to create more low-income housing, not to help pay the rent of already-existing units. However, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Schumacher calls it “appalling” that the federal government has cut the budget for affordable housing amid one of the largest spending sprees in history.

The greatest irony in this story is that the city has to get permission from the federal government if it wishes to cut some tenants off the rolls of subsidized housing, even though the feds are actually the source of the funding dilemma. Before Schumacher’s ordinance, the city was thinking of creating stricter standards for eligibility to make up for the lack of federal dollars. Currently low-income tenants living in housing worth up to 110% of the market average are eligible for rent assistance. The city was considering reducing the bar to 90%. Hopefully this new proposal will make that unnecessary.

Nevertheless, the problem illustrates how the federal government is as detached from the problems of the nation’s poor as it is during times of prosperity. The stimulus includes many of worthwhile investments in the future, including money for infrastructure development, as discussed in the post below. Increased spending on food stamps and unemployment payments have also accomplished the fundamental task of putting money into the pockets of people who will immediately put it back into the economy. Advocates like Russ Feingold have been behind these efforts and have tried to remind Washington that the first to get hit by this crisis are the country’s poor.

Low-income housing is more important than most people seem to realize. When people cannot afford housing where they work – where do they turn? Brenda Konkel has more.