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Keeping Faith: Preserving Housing Options for Low-Income Families

Which of the recommendations in the BPC Housing Commission’s report should receive highest priority?

View the full forum here. Habitat for Humanity congratulates the Housing Commission for its extraordinary work embodied in Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy. It is particularly encouraging that the report highlights the continuing value of homeownership to American households at all income levels as well as the benefits of stable housing to the health of neighborhoods and communities. Habitat strongly endorses the commission’s position that federal policy should strike “a balance between support for homeownership and renting, and prioritizing such support to help those with the greatest needs in both sectors.” This recommendation closely aligns with the conclusions of Habitat’s recently released 2013 Shelter Report, Keeping Faith: Affordable Housing and Strong Communities.

Despite homeownership’s prominent role in our economy since the Great Depression, recent calls have been made to roll back federal investments that would help families acquire mortgage loans, particularly with regard to low-income households. Clear evidence, however, including the consistent successes of Habitat homeowners for nearly 40 years, has demonstrated the irrefutable value of affordable homeownership both to low-income families and to the larger community. The stability provided by homeownership leads to the creation of assets that can be passed from generation to generation, to better health and education outcomes for children, to higher levels of civic engagement and to stronger and more resilient housing markets, which enhance local revenue streams.

The documented achievements of public-private collaborations supporting homeownership models like Habitat’s justify ongoing and increased public investment and partnership. Although caution is warranted in response to the excesses of the last decade, federal, state and local governments must guard against policy overcorrections that will limit low-income families’ access to homeownership opportunities and undermine the recovery of local housing markets and economies.

You probably remember the scene from the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when customers of the Bailey Building and Loan panicked and started a run on the company’s assets. George Bailey stands his ground and talks them out of their fear. “Now, we can get through this thing all right. We’ve got to stick together, though,” he tells them. “We’ve got to have faith in each other.”

Habitat’s work has always embodied a faith-based approach, and today we are proud to stand with the commission in keeping faith with low- and moderate-income families by ensuring their continued access to a range of appropriate affordable housing alternatives. Enabling families to achieve homeownership remains one of the best strategies for household asset building and for rebuilding neighborhoods and communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis and Great Recession.

Jonathan T.M. Reckford is chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International.

Welcome to the BPC Housing Commission expert forum! This forum is intended to foster interactive and substantive discussion about pressing housing issues. Each month contributors from different parts of the housing sector will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Guest posts will feature prominently on BPC’s website, as well as be shared regularly with Housing Commissioners to help inform their work.

Have a pressing question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments section. We encourage you and our expert bloggers to add comments, contributing to the national dialogue on solutions for the future of the housing sector.

Expert bloggers are not members of the BPC Housing Commission. Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Housing Commission, its Co-Chairs, or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

2013-04-08 00:00:00

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