Commentary: Republicans Breaking Thirty Year Promise on Building and Maintaining Affordable Housing

By House Democratic Leader

Nancy Pelosi

     The budget should be a statement of our national values, but for the fourth time in four years, Republicans in Congress and President Bush are seeking to pass a budget that is nothing less than an assault on our national values. From health care, to job creation, to education, Republican policies simply do not respond to the challenges facing American families.

     Housing is a prime example of distorted Republican priorities. While Republicans are happy to continue tax cuts for wealthy corporate interests, they are making cuts that threaten safe and secure homes for thousands of children and families across the country. Last month, in the middle of the fiscal year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development changed the rules and retroactively cut back funds for housing initiatives. Heartlessly, the Administration is taking housing money away from needy families who were promised it. This is unheard of in our history and reveals a new level of aggressiveness on the part of the Administration.

     This Administration is breaking a 30-year promise to help low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe housing. For the first time, the government will no longer pay the full cost of rent vouchers. This will impact not only needy families but also the private landlords who rent homes to them. San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation, and any assault on affordable housing will be felt here.

     Working with Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, our leader in the House of Representatives on housing issues, I will fight any attempt to undermine affordable housing. The consequences of the new ruling will be devastating. In cities across the nation, thousands of families that now receive housing support through Section 8 vouchers could face dramatic rent increases or even eviction from their homes and apartments during the next few months.

     The poorest and most vulnerable families will suffer the most, and these cuts would likely contribute to homelessness in San Francisco and across the country. In San Francisco, there are already 27,000 people on the waiting list for Section 8 housing, and the list has been closed since 2001. We need to increase access to Section 8 housing, not cut it. This change is shortsighted, and it is sudden.

     Clearly, the Administration has decided not to wait for Congress to weigh in on its new Section 8 proposal, which was included in this year’s budget, to reduce and block grant the voucher program. It has already drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle this year. Under the President’s 2005 budget, housing assistance could be cut for 250,000 families across the nations who are currently receiving Section 8 housing assistance.

     These policies are outrageous, and they are wrong. We must ensure that no family in America loses a safe, decent home in which to raise its kids because of reckless cuts by this Administration.

Originally published in STREET SHEET, a publication of the Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco: streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org