Celebrating Homeownership and Removing Barriers By Cheryll Boswell

 

A home is more than a shelter and place of refuge. A home is where we raise our children and plant our roots in communities. Making homeownership affordable, accessible and sustainable for low-income families has long been the mission of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and HUD approved counseling agencies like METEC. HUD created affordable housing programs as an extension of the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Act. It was an aggressive way for the federal government to look at ways to integrate housing and right the wrong the Federal Housing Administration – FHA, explicitly devised to institutionalize racism and segregation.

Faced with a severe housing shortage after World War II and the Great Depression, The FHA created housing programs that were designed to increase the housing stock and segregate it at the same time. White families were encouraged to move out of the city or public housing and into the suburbs. Doing so they received subsidized mortgage financing. White families could buy homes with little or no down payment and get a 30-year mortgage backed with insurance from the Federal Housing Administration. During this time African-Americans and other people of color were left out of new suburban communities, and encouraged to live in urban housing projects. FHA furthered segregation by refusing to insure mortgages in and near Black neighborhoods. This led to years of separate but not equal lending practices.

In 2017, there still is a lack of affordable housing for low and very low-income families both nationally and locally. HUD estimates that over 12 million families spend more than 50% of their annual income for rent or house payments. It is these families that work full-time minimum wage jobs but yet find it difficult to pay for a two-bedroom apartment. HUD’s affordable housing plan offers several programs that assist veterans, disabled families, elderly, and families with extremely low incomes, with affording decent and safe housing. One of those programs is rental assistance through the use of vouchers. Only about 25% of the families that have vouchers are able to use them. The supply of affordable housing is not keeping up with the demand for affordable housing.

History consistently shows the importance of a solid housing market and how the housing market impacts our economy. The housing economy nets trillions of dollars into the economy. Because of these financial benefits, policy makers have promoted homeownership through a number of means. During his presidency, Clinton started Homeownership Week as part of his strategy to boost homeownership across the county. In 2002 President George W. Bush proclaimed June as National Homeownership month. President Bush wanted more Americans to learn about financial management and explore homeownership opportunities in their communities.

In conjunction with HUD, METEC celebrates National Homeownership Month. METEC continues to offer local programs and services that increase homeownership and affordable housing opportunities. Often the lack of access to affordable financial products, credit and income are barriers that keep many low income families from seeing the benefits of owning a home or even starting on the path to homeownership. HUD approved Housing Counseling Agencies provide current and prospective homeowners and renters with resources to make responsible choices to address their housing needs. HUD approved housing counselors are impartial professionals. They are trained and licensed to provide individuals and families with the knowledge they need to obtain, sustain, or improve their housing status.

President Trump’s “2018” proposed budget will increase housing barriers for millions of low income families. Trump’s administration is proposing to cut more than six billion dollars from HUD’s affordable housing, and community development programs. Trumps administration believes that state and local governments are in better position to help communities.

The demand for safe, decent, and affordable housing are often negotiated items for some of America’s most vulnerable population. These should be non-negotiable Rights. Everyone deserves access to affordable housing whether they rent or purchase a place to live.