WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a national leader in efforts to increase affordable housing, welcomed a move today that could free up hundreds of millions of dollars to expand affordable rental housing nationwide.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency today decided to use excess profits from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fund the National Housing Trust Fund starting next year. The contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will provide a new dedicated revenue source for states to finance very-low-income rental housing construction and rehabilitation projects.
“This is really excellent news,” said Sanders, who first proposed legislation in the House of Representative in 2001 to create the Housing Trust Fund. The Housing Trust Fund became law in 2008, but has never received any funding, until now.
“It is no secret that over the past decade, incomes have not come close to keeping pace with the escalating costs of housing. At a time when millions of families are struggling to get by, and when many households are spending 50 percent or more of their limited income on housing, the Trust Fund will provide resources to build the affordable housing we desperately need and create thousands of good-paying jobs.”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition had estimated that in 2012 there were only 3.2 million rental housing units available and affordable for the 10.3 million extremely-low-income households that need them. Sheila Crowley, the coalition president, cited Sanders’ role in a statement celebrating “a great victory” for the homeless and poor. “At long last, the National Housing Trust Fund will have funds to begin to ameliorate the shortage of housing that they can afford. I am very grateful to Sen. Bernie Sanders for championing the NHTF since the first days of our campaign in 2001.”
In Vermont, Erhard Mahnke of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition said he was “absolutely thrilled at this wonderful news.” He said the funding “will create much-needed housing that is affordable to low-income Vermonters working at low-wage service sector jobs or living on fixed incomes.”
The Trust Fund will provide block grants to the states, at least 90% of which must be used for the protection, preservation, rehabilitation, or operation of rental housing. No less than 75% of the funds for rental housing will benefit extremely low income households with the rest benefiting those with very low incomes. Up to 10% of Trust Fund resources may be used for homeownership activities for people with very low incomes. Sanders included a provision in the bill to ensure that no state receives less than $3 million annually.