As Congress prepares its budget for the next fiscal year, MCAH and our state partners felt it was crucial for the public to be aware of potential cuts to programs that house the homeless and keep families in their homes. Our July 26 rally and storytelling event, “How Housing Changed My Life” brought Michiganders to Lansing to tell their true stories of homelessness. Now we hope these stories will reach our elected officials.
It’s often the human aspect that gets left behind when it comes to federal funding. Slashing and cutting items on a budget is easier to do when you cannot physically see the impact it will have on people’s lives. But it’s hard to ignore the personal impact when it’s staring you in the face.
On July 26, ten speakers stood on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol for the ‘How Housing Changed My Life’ rally and told their stories of homelessness and of the many federal programs that helped them get into affordable housing. Each storyteller had the same request for Congress – to continue funding the programs that can grant low-income individuals and families access to the American dream: a safe and stable home. The rally was one of over thirty events that took place across the country during the National Housing Week of Action (July 22-29) to motivate and educate the public on the importance of these essential government programs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) .
HUD plays a vital role in implementing and maintaining programs that have helped millions of people access housing. Many misconceptions surround HUD’s programming and their importance to recipients. While it may be known as a housing agency, this is not the only focus of its many programs. HUD also subsidizes that housing, funds homelessness prevention and re-housing programs, and distributes annual grants issued for revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development, and improving facilities and services in the community. Many of these programs are intended for low- and moderate-income households.
Another common myth around HUD is that its beneficiaries rely too heavily on the government, which discourages them from working hard. The facts are that in 2016 in Michigan only 1-2% of households that participated in HUD programming such as Public Housing or Housing Choice Vouchers had the majority of their income come from welfare. The rising cost of rent in many cities is being identified as a national crisis, with a growing number of households unable to afford a modest 2-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent with their minimum-wage income. Over 5 million low-income households use federal rental assistance, and 89% of those households include children or people who are elderly or disabled.
So how do we as advocates make sure our government sees the good that HUD programs are able to do for our communities? It’s hard to put into perspective what these budget cuts would mean by simply looking at numbers on a screen. But let’s try to showcase just how many Michigan families would be hurt by cuts to housing services.
HUD, like many other federal agencies, came under fire with the release of the Administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Under this proposal, HUD could face cuts of $6.8225 billion dollars in comparison to the previous year’s budget. The state of Michigan alone could be looking at a $222,081,806 decrease in funding, which could impact an estimated 24,142 households living in public housing per year and could remove housing choice vouchers for 7,061 families. These vouchers assist low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford safe and accessible housing in the private market.
The most at-risk populations in this country would be severely impacted by any budget cuts. That includes the 66,483 total people in 2016 who experienced or were at risk of homelessness in Michigan, including 14,472 children and unaccompanied youth, and 3,952 veterans.
The House and Senate have now released their proposed budgets, which are more promising than the Administration’s but still lack the necessary funding to keep up with our current and growing need. Putting into consideration the sheer number of people struggling to escape or prevent homelessness under the current amount of federal funding, to even suggest putting people at further risk by slashing these programs is irresponsible and dangerous.
There’s still time for us to make a difference though. The next steps with regards to the 2018 budget are for the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees to come up with a budget resolution before being either signed or vetoed by the president. Which means that your members of Congress still need to hear from you about why funding for housing programs needs to become a priority.
To learn more about the importance of HUD, the proposed federal budget for FY2018 and how you can make an impact:
- Read up on how to contact your elected officials and tell them we need more funding, not less, for housing programs
- Meet those who participated in our rally and have found a home with the assistance of federal programs on our Vimeo channel. New videos will be up each week.
- Learn more about national efforts to reform the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) to better serve low-income households.
By Nick Kipper, Communications & Public Policy Intern at Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org