We have seen how years of underfunding and disinvestment in public and affordable housing has been detrimental to the fabric of the nation’s housing stock and housing stability. In recent years, public housing funding has not been adequate to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, including our children and seniors. We believe more federal resources for public housing are necessary to better preserve existing stock, provide appropriate operating support to public housing authorities, and to assist low-income families in having safe, decent, affordable homes.
During the last decade, capital fund appropriations have dwindled, while ongoing accrual needs have increased dramatically. Currently, Capital Fund appropriations average less than $2 billion annually, while annual capital accrual needs are estimated at $3.4 billion. The capital needs backlog was last estimated in 2010 as at least $26 billion—and growing.
This growing disinvestment has led to the substantial loss of approximately twelve thousand public housing units each year, resulting in fewer and fewer people served by the program. CLPHA proposes a 10-year reinvestment plan to once and for all eliminate the backlog of public housing capital needs. Adequate Capital Fund appropriations, supplemented with private equity through Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and other public and private resources, together with regulatory reform which allows PHAs to use these resources to meet local needs will put these properties in a sound, sustainable operating position for the long-term without jeopardizing affordability.
We believe a key principle of federal public housing policy must be that scarce resources are used in ways that are most appropriate to the local housing market, as determined by local housing providers, including PHAs, in consultation with their residents and community partners. Currently, the type and mix of federal programs and subsidies in a particular locality is often random; the result, historically, of the funding that was available at the time a provider sought federal assistance.
Particularly as funding dwindles, we believe greater flexibility in using federal assistance is essential. Rigid adherence to narrow program rules prevents the responsiveness and adaptability needed to use public housing resources in the most effective way possible. Models where PHAs can flexibly combine funding sources and use them in ways that are more effective locally, such as “single fund budget authority” in the Moving to Work demonstration program and the ability to combine operating and capital funds and “rent bundle” in the RAD program, should be taken to scale and replicated across the public housing program.
Housing authorities should be allowed to focus on innovation, championing local decision-making, and local flexibility. The Moving to Work (MTW) program was designed to test innovative ways of administering rental housing programs by allowing housing authorities to operate with greater levels of administrative flexibility and local decision-making. As intended, the program has served as a laboratory of innovation, shaping much needed reforms to the public housing and housing voucher programs. In addition, MTW agencies are pioneering new operating models that are more streamlined, efficient and responsive to local needs. Some, but too few of these innovative reforms have been made available to non MTW PHAs. We strongly support expansion of the MTW program to all high-capacity agencies.
We believe that aligning systems that serve low-income populations is the future of better delivery for programs at the federal level. A growing consensus acknowledges that our fragmented, siloed policy-making, and resulting service delivery system, is both inadequate and costly in addressing the holistic, multi-system solutions needed to address intergenerational poverty. Housing plays a particularly crucial role in improving cross-sector outcomes because of the deep connections to children and families that housing providers have. While stable housing is crucial to assist these populations, by better aligning delivery systems that are too often siloed, inflexible, and inefficient, we can broaden and deepen efforts from housing, education, and health organizations to achieve positive long-term outcomes.