BURLINGTON – March 17 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s announcement that the National Housing Trust Fund will receive a record $711 million this year to build, preserve and rehabilitate affordable rental housing for extremely low-income families. This is more than double the funding allocated for the Trust Fund in 2020, which Sanders helped create. Vermont will receive a $3 million allocation from the trust fund, which will be disbursed later this year.
Sanders first introduced legislation to create the National Housing Trust Fund in 2001, based on the success of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund. Administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and funded through a small assessment on the government-sponsored housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Trust Fund is the first new federal housing resource in more than a generation. It is also the first program exclusively targeted to help build housing that is affordable to people with the lowest incomes.
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, which administers the National Housing Trust Fund in Sanders’ home state, said, “Senator Sanders introduced legislation that led to the establishment of the National Housing Trust Fund in 2016. Today, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board uses these funds to create and rehabilitate permanently affordable housing serving our most vulnerable households, especially individuals and families that are currently experiencing homelessness. Over the last five years, Vermont has used National Housing Trust Fund dollars to create and rehabilitate more than 500 homes in 24 developments throughout Vermont.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), eight million of the poorest Americans spend at least half of their incomes on housing and utilities. “When you spend half of your money on rent, that leaves very little for other necessities such as food and health care,” Sanders said. “Stable and affordable housing is not only essential to live with dignity, but without it, economic opportunity is simply an illusion. It makes it very difficult for families to keep up, and near impossible to get ahead or save for retirement or higher education.”
NLIHC’s annual Out of Reach report ranked Vermont as the 16th most expensive state in the country when comparing the cost of a modest two-bedroom apartment with wages. In Vermont a minimum wage worker must work 85 hours a week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Vermont has the fifth largest shortfall between the average renter wage and the rent for a two-bedroom apartment.
“This funding increase is a very important step in helping working families,” Sanders said, “but the pandemic and economic crisis have made it abundantly clear that affordable housing is an economic and public health imperative. We should significantly expand this program to meet the huge demand for affordable housing here in Vermont and across the country. And in the process, we will create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.”