This Valentine’s Day, tenant leaders representing millions of low-income families—some of whom face the prospect of homelessness due to draconian cuts proposed by the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee—are engaging in direct actions and demonstrations in 19 cities across the nation.
The demand issued to Congress through the “Have a Heart, Save Our Homes” campaign is simple: oppose these cuts—including over 20 percent for Housing and Urban Development programs aiding the poor over the next seven months—and support full funding for Section 8, public housing and other home-assistance programs.
Here are some of the Republican’s proposed cuts, according to the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) leading the campaign: $1.6 billion cut to public housing below the FY 2010 level; $1.47 billion cut to Section 8 vouchers below the President’s request for FY 2011; $2.9 billion cut—2/3 of the overall program—to Community Development Block Grants, which help cities address affordable housing, job training, domestic violence, and other anti-poverty needs; and $760 million—2/3 cut—to housing for the elderly and disabled.
“Congress needs to stop this war on the poor,” said Michael Kane, executive director of NAHT. “If you look at the Bohener cuts, almost all of the big program cuts are on programs that serve poor people. And some of the deepest cuts are at HUD, affecting low-income tenants.”
Indeed five million American households receive HUD assistance to rent their homes. These are very low-income Americans, and the overwhelming majority are seniors, disabled people and single parents with children. Many are disabled veterans or formerly homeless people. Section 8 tenants pay 30% of their income on rent, with the federal government paying the rest to landlords. 1.1 million families live in public housing owned by city housing agencies and would be homeless without HUD rental assistance.
“The public housing buildings are literally falling down because they were starved for eight years during the Bush era, and housing authorities around the country are tearing them down because they’re no longer habitable,” said Kane. “They need something like $20-$30 billion just to sustain these buildings, but instead of appropriating more money, they’re pulling the plug on them. People are being made homeless by the destruction—it’s happening steadily across the country and it will accelerate with these cuts.”