BURLINGTON, August 5 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Wednesday that Vermont will receive $3 million from the National Housing Trust Fund to build, preserve and rehabilitate affordable rental housing for extremely low-income families. This is the fifth year in a row that Vermont will receive a $3 million allocation from the trust fund, which Sanders helped create.
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.
“Unfortunately, it was very clear that we had an affordable housing crisis in our country before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sanders said. “Now, millions of working families are struggling to pay their rent and mortgages and at risk of becoming homeless. As we respond to the current health and economic crisis, we cannot ignore the unsustainable rising cost of housing. Right now, the National Housing Trust Fund is the only federal program that provides funding to construct, preserve and rehabilitate affordable housing for our lowest-income families. It is time to substantially increase its funding to meet the enormous need in every corner of this country.”
In Vermont, the National Housing Trust Fund is administered by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Executive Director Gus Seelig said, “Since it was established five years ago, the National Housing Trust Fund has been instrumental in creating and rehabilitating 490 homes in 20 housing developments located in 13 towns around the state. Ten developments are complete, providing homes affordable to our most vulnerable households, including some that had been homeless or were at risk of homelessness. These trust fund dollars are so important to Vermont, especially in this very difficult economy.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), 7.7 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.”
NLIH’s annual Out of Reach report ranked Vermont as the 5th 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 each week to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.
Nationally, the trust fund has already helped build 161 affordable housing developments, and many more are in the queue. “This is a very good start,” Sanders said, “but it is clear we have a very long way to go. Unbelievably, President Trump has proposed zeroing out the trust fund for the past four years. To my mind, that is incredibly short-sighted and just plain wrong. During this unprecedented time, when millions of Americans are living in fear of losing their housing and are in need of a helping hand, we must make a historic investment in affordable housing. I will continue to fight to expand the program and to guarantee safe and affordable housing as a human right.”