[Hpn] Democrats Reveal Plan To Provide Affordable Housing From Budget

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Fri, 29 Jun 2001 14:56:58 -0400


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Found at:


Published on JUNE 28, 2001 in the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Democrats Reveal Plan To Provide Affordable Housing From Budget


Eyeing a $6 billion Federal Housing Administration surplus, House Democrats 
Wednesday unveiled a plan to use the excess to build housing for the 
nation's poor.

"We're not talking about unemployed people only," said the sponsor, Rep. 
Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont. "We're talking about people 
making $6 an hour, $7 an hour . . . More than 5.4 million people are paying 
more than half their incomes on rent or living in substandard housing. With 
a trust fund, we could build decent housing for 200,000 people next year."

Co-sponsors include William Lacy Clay Jr., D-St. Louis, and 46 others, all 
but one of whom are Democrats.

Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., a proponent of affordable housing, 
dismisses the source for the trust fund as unworkable.

"It's a false hope if they think they can grab funds from the FHA, " Bond 
said. "With foreclosures up, it is very questionable to be dipping into that 
mutual mortgage insurance fund for any money. We don't want to bankrupt the 
fund if the housing market continues to go south."

Bond said he plans to offer his own bill aimed at building more low-income 
housing but declined to identify the financial sources he is considering. 
Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., will soon unveil his bill for a national housing 
trust fund - and is expected to draw on the FHA reserves as the House bill 

On Wednesday, supporters of the House bill rallied at a low-income complex 
for the disabled - the Boulevard Apartments, 4545 Forest Park Ave.

"Thousands of St. Louis residents earn less than $9.98 an hour, the wage 
needed to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in St. Louis," said Sharon 
Belleville, director of Action Protecting Tenant Safety. "The average rent 
for a two-bedroom apartment in St. Louis is $519, which is way out of reach 
for most minimum-wage workers."

In Washington, Rep. Karen McCarthy, D-Kansas City, cited similar problems: 
"In my district, over 15,000 households spend at least 50 percent of their 
income on housing. That makes it hard to address other needs: food, 
clothing, health care, education."

The FHA is a federal agency that insures mortgages - usually for first-time 
homebuyers who otherwise would have trouble getting conventional mortgages.

More than a decade ago, Congress passed a law that requires the FHA to set 
aside 2 percent of the outstanding home loans it insures as a reserve to 
cover bad loans. Government audits this spring showed those reserves were 
about $16 billion - $6 billion more than required.

Sanders' bill would use the excess each year for grants to government and 
nonprofits to build or renovate housing or provide rental assistance for 
low-income people who pay more than half their income for housing.


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Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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