In July of this year, I toured an affordable housing development near Wytheville, VA, built by the folks at HOPE – Helping Overcome Poverty’s Existence. When first proposed nearly twenty years ago, some neighbors fought the idea of ‘subsidized housing’ nearby, and local government didn’t support it either. Twenty years later, Deerfield is a lovely neighborhood of modest, beautiful homes and well-kept yards. Working people, folks on fixed incomes and lower income people – all buying their homes – comprise this neighborhood. It recalled for me the Southwest Virginia Homeownership Program that I’d helped to launch nearly 30 years earlier, in partnership with Virginia Mountain Housing, People, Incorporated and Appalachia Service project. Over 200 homes were built, using a combination of public and private funds which enabled families of modest means to buy their own homes.
We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis in southwest Virginia and the nation as a whole. In the 9th district, rents are rising much faster than incomes. In Smyth County, rents have outpaced incomes by 36%; in Galax, 44%; in Grayson County 69%. Yet the President’s proposed 2019 budget cuts federal housing funds by 18%, nearly $9 billion.
Home ownership is the primary form of ‘wealth’ for most families, their biggest single source of assets and savings. And affordable, decent rental housing helps stabilize families and neighborhoods, keeps kids in the same school rather than jumping around and reduces homelessness. Decent, affordable housing is similar to good quality health care – it’s good for people and it saves money in the long run.
Full funding for HUD programs, including the very successful efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans and the general population. As one example, the HEARTH Act in 2009 has helped reduce homelessness in Virginia by more than 30% since 2010, more dramatically still among veterans;
Expanded funding for the Home Investment Partnership Program which works with community-based organizations and local contractors working to make home ownership more affordable for working families and lower income households;
Work with local governments, realtors and landlords to dramatically reduce eviction rates in the 9th District and in rural communities more broadly