July 3, 2008

Affordable Housing in D.C. and Beyond

Where do the presidential candidates stand?

by Jessica Wright, Community Blogger.

Today I discovered that determining the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees’ stances on affordable housing is no easy task. During my research on the subject, I found time and again that the issue of poverty was, literally, at the bottom of the list of campaign topics. Finally I was able to piece together some of their positions, which I will outline here.

Barack Obama:

  • Plans to fully fund the Community Development Block Grant Program, which has been in existence for years and allocates money to the state and local governments for affordable housing, infrastructure development, and anti-poverty programs.
  • Will establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will create affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. According to Daily Tidings, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would use a small percentage of the profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to create up to 14,000 new units of affordable housing every year in mixed-income neighborhoods. Approximately 75 percent of the funds would support households below 30% of the median income and the additional 25 percent of the fund would be used to assist low-income families in homeownership activities. Private companies would develop the housing.
  • Has a plan to give tenants, homeowners, and other consumers counseling on buying a house to protect against mortgage fraud and subprime lending.
  • For more information on Obama’s platform, read his responses to a Washington Post interview or check out his speech on poverty that he gave here in D.C.
John McCain:
I had a difficult time tracking down any current statements from John McCain concerning poverty and the housing issue. Much of the following information was part of his platform during the 2000 presidential race and can be found at vote-smart.org or ontheissues.org.
  • Will support housing assistance for welfare recipients.
  • Will provide homeless families with apartment vouchers they can use to supplement the cost of an apartment.
  • Will continue the block grant program, giving states and local governments responsibility for welfare programs, including transferring homeless housing programs to the states. Although not specifically stated, this appears to be the same program that Obama supports.
  • In 1999, McCain introduced the Urban Homestead Act to the U.S. Senate. While the bill did not pass, it intended to: (1) semiannually publish in the Federal Register a list of unoccupied multifamily housing projects, substandard housing projects, and other residential property owned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for at least six months; and (2) transfer ownership to a requesting community development corporation.
It is unfortunate that affordable housing appears to be such a low priority for not only the candidates, but also the media that covers election topics. My hope is that the work done here at Bread for the City, and advocacy work everywhere, will help to give this issue the attention that it deserves.

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