[Hpn] SFBG: The war at home

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 07 Jul 2004 09:55:02 -0700


July 7 - July 13 2004  Vol. 38, No. 41

by chance martin

The war at home

FOURTEEN MILLION AMERICAN households spend more than half their income on
housing. Five million households are precariously housed, meaning they lack
employment stability or income to pay for both their housing and other basic
necessities such as food and clothing, do not have access to affordable
housing near work, or have experienced housing discrimination.

As many as 3.5 million Americans, more than 1 million of whom are children,
lack housing altogether.

The Section 8 program of the federal Department of Housing and Urban
Development is the largest source of housing subsidies for Americans living
in poverty. And last year, the Bush administration proposed a 2004 budget
that would have forced more than 100,000 extremely low-income families out
of their homes by cutting funding for their Section 8 vouchers. When
Congress voted that plan down, the administration undertook a stealth plan
to drain funding from Section 8 by revising housing regulations.

The Bush administration's true agenda is now coming to light as states and
housing authorities begin to receive their 2004 funding, finding allocations
shockingly short. If these restrictive rules are not repealed, thousands of
households will lose their vouchers and face the very real possibility of
homelessness. In San Francisco these federal policies place 871 households
at immediate risk of losing their subsidies, with 2,071 more in jeopardy by

Cynically, the Bush administration has declared a goal of ending "chronic"
homelessness  while actively opposing the creation of a national housing
trust fund that could help close America's housing gap in a decade.

And now the feds propose cutting Section 8 funding by another $1.6 billion,
putting 250,000 American households at risk of homelessness.

Widespread homelessness during the Great Depression was, in large measure,
solved through housing and works programs created by popular mobilization,
but for the past 25 years, national agenda has been set by three Republican
administrations and one New Democrat. And the last quarter-century of
American housing policy reveals one constant: an ongoing failure to
reconcile federal cuts to low-income housing with a concurrent rise in

Sadly, it appears the Bush administration is now ready to blame the
"liberals," the "doubters," the well-meaning providers, and the people on
the front lines for "accommodating" homelessness. Such charges conveniently
ignore the 64 percent cut to HUD's housing budget since 1978, as well as the
annual loss of some 90,000 affordable housing units, instead fixing the
blame for a seemingly intractable homelessness crisis on the very people
struggling to address the problem.

The Bush administration should support its admirable call to "abolish"
homelessness in America by putting its money where its mouth is: it should
restore full funding for HUD's Section 8 program and support the National
Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act.

Together we can move toward ending homelessness in America.

Chance Martin is the editor of Street Sheet.     

chance martin
A Publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco
468 Turk Street, San Francisco, CA  94102
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