1. Update
  2. Economic Justice

Good Housing Policy Reduces Poverty: Congress Must Fund These Essential Programs

By Andre Gobbo, November 18, 2019


The Senate recently passed H.R.3055, a package of appropriations bills for FY2020, which included funding for the departments of Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, and Science; Interior; and Transportation and Housing (T-HUD).

The House has already passed most of its appropriations bills, including T-HUD. Now congressional leaders must reconcile the House and Senate bills and finalize funding levels for all the different programs under the jurisdictions of these departments.

Funding Differences Between House and Senate

It’s unacceptable that only 1 in 4 households that are eligible for assistance eventually receive it.

Included in the Senate T-HUD bill is increased funding for key housing programs, such as Tenant Based Rental Assistance, the Public Housing Capital Fund, and Homeless Assistance Grants. These programs provide critical assistance so people can afford their monthly rent, housing providers can repair and modernize public housing units, and homeless individuals can access shelter.

But the Senate T-HUD bill also cuts funding for important programs, including Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Native American Housing Block Grants, and the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. These same programs received an increase in funding in the House T-HUD bill. The conference committee must preserve this funding as they reconcile the bill.

The Problem with Extending Past Funding Levels

For housing programs in particular, it’s crucial that Congress avoid “flat funding,” both in the bill itself or through a short-term funding extension or continuing resolution (CR).

Continuing to fund programs at the same level from one fiscal year to the next, despite increases in the cost of living, essentially amounts to a cut.

Continuing to fund programs at the same level from one fiscal year to the next, despite increases in the cost of living, essentially amounts to a cut. This is especially true in housing, where costs tend to increase significantly year over year. When funding remains level and housing costs increase, fewer people can receive much-needed assistance.

CRs have additional negative effects. The lack of long-term funding causes uncertainty that can deter private owners from participating in rental assistance programs and put housing and community development projects on hold. It prevents housing providers from being able to effectively plan for the future, and level funding in the face of increasing housing costs disincentivizes housing providers from seeking out government contracts and participating in programs.

What Is Needed

While we’re pleased the Senate funded critical housing programs, there is more work that needs to be done. It’s unacceptable that only 1 in 4 households that are eligible for assistance eventually receive it. Housing policy has an out-sized impact on reducing poverty, for example:

Governing by continual CRs will only make life more difficult for people who are already struggling to make ends meet. While the Senate T-HUD bill isn’t perfect, we urge Congress to pass the bill and secure much-needed funding for key housing programs.

Economic Justice 

By most measures, the United States is a country of wealth and abundance. Yet, for many people, the U.S. economy isn’t working. In the richest country in the world, everyone should be able to eat three meals a day, have a roof over his or her head, and access health care. In addition, everyone should have opportunities to learn, work, and grow. A just economy is built on this foundation of economic stability and opportunity.

Andre Gobbo

  • Legislative Representative, Domestic Policy

Andre Gobbo adds capacity to the Domestic Policy team by handling constituent queries, writing action alerts and sign-on letters, assisting with lobbying visits, creating informational content, supporting coalition relationships, and helping execute FCNL’s legislative strategies.