Tag Archives: State of the Union

NAHRO Response to the State of the Union Address

Last night, the President properly focused attention on the matter of income inequality and in  doing so urged Congress to take immediate steps in this “year of action” to address the widening gap between rich and poor in America.  With 2014being the 50th anniversary of the “War on Poverty” we agree that more immediate and more directed action to assist the most vulnerable and those struggling to make ends meet in our nation is not only wholly appropriate but absolutely necessary.  With this in mind, however, we were disappointed that the President failed to mention the important role that affordable housing plays or should play in this larger endeavor.  In 2011, for example, less than 5 percent of affordable housing units produced in this country were affordable to minimum wage workers.  Also, nearly 50 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income towards housing according to a study conducted by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Having a safe and decent place to call home is essential to the health and wellbeing of families, seniors, returning vets and the disabled, whether they be rich or poor.  The public policy goal of a decent home and suitable living environment for all has long been the fulcrum that has enabled this nation to assist those in need of a place to call home.  Public Housing, Section 8 rental assistance, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the HOME program and CDBG all were created to help provide a foundation to enable the federal government to assist low and very low income families in need of shelter who otherwise might go without.  The tragedy of homeless in America today is in fact a cruel reminder and a link in the extreme to some of the same income driven issues the President raised tonight and the Administration seeks to address in the months to follow.

We commend the Administrations heightened focus on poverty in America, income inequality and the needs of America’s working poor.  Housing and redevelopment authorities who are essential players on affordable housing’s front line stand ready to work with the Administration and we seek to play an important part in helping in the larger effort to assist the working poor. To do so in an otherwise difficult budget environment, however, will require a recommitment on the part of the federal government to provide the tools and resources necessary to enable local agencies to be effective and to attack this problem in a responsible manner.

We hope our nation’s leaders break the cycle of partisanship in Washington and we hope that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, working with the Administration, can reach early agreement on a plan of action to close the income gap that exists today.  That plan, we believe, must recognize that the provision of safe, decent and affordable housing is an essential part of the solution.  From this necessary recommitment to address the needs of those who have less, we hope will come an overwhelming reaffirmation of the need to close the nation’s affordable housing gap through the production of new affordable housing and the preservation of the nation’s irreplaceable stock of affordable housing.

#SOTU14: What NAHRO Wants to Hear

About this time each year, Washington is buzzing about the annual State of the Union Address otherwise referred to as the SOTU.  NAHRO for years has been a part of the process and has prepared a written response re our thoughts on the address good and bad.  Our thoughts are sent to the media, members of congress and others to ensure that affordable housing issues are on the table.  More recently we have live tweeted the speech to our ever growing list of followers.  This year we will be tweeting from @NAHROnational and we will prepare a more formal response following the Presidents remarks.

The Administration forwarded talking points to us today in advance of the speech.  The list of talking points is not altogether surprising:

  • The President will deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night, driven by three key principles: opportunity, action, and optimism.
  • The core idea is as American as they come: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should have the opportunity to succeed. In America, your ability to get ahead should be determined by your hard work, ambition, and goals – not by the circumstances of your birth.
  • The President will lay out a set of real, concrete, practical proposals to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and empower all who hope to join it.
  • In this year of action, the President will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way on behalf of the American people. But when American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress.
  • The President has a pen and he has a phone, and he will use them to take executive actions and enlist every American – from business owners, workers, mayors and state legislators to young people, veterans, and folks in communities across the country – in the project to restore opportunity for all.
  • It will be an optimistic speech. America has a hard-earned right to that optimism thanks to the grit and determination of citizens across the country. Five years after the President inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, our businesses have created more than eight million new jobs in the past 46 months, and they’re primed to create more.
  • The President will remind the country that, with some action on all of our parts, we can help more jobseekers find work, and more working Americans find the economic security they deserve.
  • In the week following the State of the Union, the President will travel to communities across the country – including Prince George’s County Maryland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Nashville – before returning to the White House to outline new efforts to help the long-term unemployed.

This is the first time that I can recall that talking points such as these were broadly distributed in advance of the speech providing a window into what we can expect to hear from the President. Yes, it would have been better to see the word housing or better yet, affordable housing in the talking points, but we hold out hope that the work that NAHRO members do every day to ensure that vulnerable populations are being served will be recognized in some way. Specifically, we hope the President will speak to the following NAHRO “talking points” in the SOTU:

  • The most vulnerable in our nation should know that providing decent, safe and affordable housing is still a priority;
  • The investment we make in providing affordable housing will serve those in need, create good paying jobs and will help stimulate the economy through the sale of goods and services;
  • The Administration recognizes that any attempt to address “income inequality” must include a vigorous well thought out plan to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable;
  • Improving our nation’s infrastructure includes preserving our nation’s irreplaceable housing inventory of affordable housing. The two are not mutually exclusive;
  • Efforts to get our fiscal house in order going forward should not come at the expense of domestic discretionary accounts generally and HCD accounts specifically;
  • He intends to focus on a plan to restore our nation’s aging inventory of federally assisted-housing (including public housing and section 8 assisted housing) in the remaining months of his term as President;
  • He hopes the Congress will send him tax reform legislation or at a minimum tax extender legislation that preserves both the 9% and 4% LIHTC credits.
  • He has directed HUD and other government agencies to expedite regulatory reforms that save the federal government money and relieve the administrative burdens that such regulations impose upon local providers;
  • He wants to work with mayors and all those who utilize both the HOME and CDBG programs to maximize the effectiveness of both programs in the larger effort to meet the housing and service needs that exist in our communities;
  • He wants to ensure that the needs of seniors, the disabled and children living in federally supported-housing are part of this Administrations overall commitment to ensure quality housing and a quality living environment for those in need.

Too much to ask for in one speech? Maybe.  A reasonable set of objectives to shoot for this year and for the remainder of the President’s term in office?  We certainly hope so.