As the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Springfield, MO, it is disheartening to see that the budget debate in Washington largely ignores the very real impact that spending cuts will have on our communities.
Take housing. In Springfield, and across the nation, far too many families– including low income seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and families with children – struggle to keep a roof over their heads or are experiencing homelessness. More families are renting their homes than ever before, and our nation’s investments in affordable housing have not kept pace. As a result, rents are increasing everywhere.
Decent, affordable housing provides the stability and opportunity that individuals and families need to improve their health and education, enhance their financial growth and security, and strengthen their neighborhoods. In Springfield where the poverty rate is 25%, the need for affordable housing is even greater and, unfortunately, access continues to shrink.
Despite the growing needs, three out of every four families in need of housing assistance are turned away due to a lack of funding. Because “the rent eats first,” as sociologist and author of Evicted Matthew Desmond says, these families are forced to make harmful tradeoffs and skimp on groceries, medical care, and other basic needs. Every state and congressional district is directly impacted.
President Trump’s budget proposes to further slash federal investments in affordable housing by $7.4 billion or 15% – a move that could increase homelessness and housing poverty in our community. This is the wrong approach.
Habitat Springfield has been blessed to receive assistance from SHOP, CDBG and AmeriCorp resources in the past. Eliminating or reducing funding for these programs would exacerbate the growing local housing shortages in Springfield and increase the burden of housing costs on families in need of housing stability.
Instead of reducing our nation’s investments in affordable housing, we need to make a bold and sustained commitment to ensure that everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home. Because when we invest in affordable homes, we invest in people, our communities, and America as a whole – from increased employment and economic mobility to improved health and better education.
That’s why advocates, elected officials, and concerned citizens are joining together to participate in the national “Our Homes, Our Voices” week of action from July 22-29 by sharing their concerns with our legislators in order to bring more attention to the affordable housing crisis in the community. We firmly believe that all people deserve an affordable home, and no one should be forced to give up food and basic healthcare to keep a roof over their heads.
It is time for President Trump and Congress to expand affordable housing investments in our communities, not slash them. Policymakers need to look at the harm these spending cuts have on our communities, and not just numbers on a page.
Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Springfield, MO