Habitat: Proposed federal government reorganization threatens to diminish housing investments

ATLANTA (June 21, 2018) — A White House proposal to reorganize the federal government would greatly devalue investments in affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity warned today. The reorganization plan which was released today would remove housing experts from the programs they run, and builds on multiple administration budget proposals to eliminate vital funding that supports affordable housing. The proposed changes to the federal government structure would inhibit access to, and the development of, affordable housing across the country.

“Mayors across the country are calling out for affordable housing solutions, as more than 18 million American families have to spend more than half of their paychecks every month on a place to live,” said Christopher Ptomey, senior director of government relations for Habitat for Humanity International. “Rather than reshuffling programs away from the experts who run them, the federal government needs to get serious about answering this call to action. This proposed reorganization would greatly diminish the federal government’s commitment to affordable housing. We will continue working with members of Congress to focus on real solutions to the affordable housing challenge before us.”

A study released this week by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that more than a third of all households in the United States are cost burdened by housing. Of those, 18.5 million families in the United States spend more than half of their income on housing and are considered severely cost-burdened by housing.

The proposed reorganization includes several elements that would negatively impact access to affordable housing. Examples include:

  • Moving the $3 billion Community Development Block Grants program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Department of Commerce. This change risks de-emphasizing affordable housing from the mission of the CDBG program, and would detach federal housing experts from oversight of the funding. Local Habitat organizations across the country use CDBG funds to support affordable housing in their communities.
  • Moving the Department of Agriculture’s rural housing loan guarantee and rental assistance programs to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This change risks de-emphasizing rural housing development, and would diminish USDA’s focus on building up rural communities. First-time homebuyers working with Habitat organizations in rural parts of the United States often access USDA loans to purchase their homes.
  • Fully privatizing the government’s federal mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While Habitat does support targeted housing finance reform, it supports an explicit limited federal role in ensuring broad access to affordable home financing.

As Congress considers the administration’s reorganization proposal, Habitat for Humanity will work to protect and grow investments in affordable housing.

About Habitat for Humanity

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.