How the GOP Plans to Cut Affordable Housing (Again)
Units that are affordable for families with low and very low incomes aren’t the types of units that are profitable for private developers and so their construction and maintenance depends on government subsidies. As it happens, there’s a program that could help. The National Housing Trust Fund, which was created during the subprime mortgage crisis, is set to provide federal funds to local communities to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable rental housing, beginning in 2016. And, like most programs that help the poor and working classes, Republicans want to kill it.
How did we get here in the first place? It’s a combination of the crazy housing markets and lackluster federal policy. The story of why affordable housing is underfunded begins, as do many tales of government-program woe, with President Ronald Reagan. Before his election, the Section 8 program had devoted about $12 billion to new construction. Reagan cut this in his 1983 budget, immediately halting plans for 50,000 new units planned for that fiscal year. His 1986 tax reforms got rid of many subsidies that promoted the construction of moderately priced housing. (Congress later restored a tax credit program for affordable apartment construction, which is one of the biggest sources of money for affordable construction, but it doesn’t match the funding that came before.)