The Housing Trust Fund and Fair Housing: The National Housing Trust Fund, authorized by Congress in 2008, has the potential to grow to become the most important source of new low income housing funding at the federal level. Funding was recently authorized for the first time, and HUD has just issued interim program rules. In comments on the proposed program rules in 2010, we recognized the enormous potential of this program to address severe housing needs and open up new housing opportunities for low income families. But we also warned HUD that without stronger civil rights guidelines, the new program could simply replicate the segregated patterns of existing subsidized housing programs (see our coalition comments here). In the new interim rule, HUD declined to adopt any of our specific recommended changes, deferring instead to the weak civil rights rules included in HUD’s HOME program (though it should be noted that the rule imports from the HOME program a prohibition on discrimination against voucher holders and some basic affirmative marketing requirements).
Under the new rule, states will soon be required to develop Housing Trust Fund “allocation plans,” which will guide how funds are distributed in 2016. To ensure that the Housing Trust Fund lives up to its great potential, it is crucial that advocates engage with their state housing agencies to ensure a fair distribution of HTF funds that expands opportunity and doesn’t compound current patterns of subsidized housing location. We will continue to work on this issue – both in advocacy at HUD and in developing guidelines for state allocation plans. Please get in touch with us if you are planning to follow this issue in your state. For more background on the Housing Trust Fund and its implementation, go to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s HTF webpage (the NLIHC led the advocacy to pass and fund the Housing Trust Fund).
Two steps forward, one step back in Department of Education budget: There are some positive new elements in the President’s proposed budget for the Department of Education, including substantial new Title I funding for higher poverty schools and districts, major funding for early education and community college enrollment, a new proposed “equity and outcomes pilot” to more equitably distribute federal funds, and a big increase in funding for the Office of Civil Rights, which has seen a corresponding increase in civil rights enforcement activity in the Obama administration. However, we are baffled by the relative lack of support for school diversity initiatives in the President’s budget: the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (the only current Department program that directly supports school integration) remains flat-funded at$91.6 million, in comparison to federal grants for charter schools, which would see a more than $120 million increase (to $375 million), and the Promise Neighborhoods program, which would see a more than $93 million increase (to $150 million). The evidence has become so powerful on the educational benefits of racial and economic integration, it’s a shame the federal government is not investing accordingly.