How to End Homelessness
It's an affordable housing crisis
The key to ending homelessness is understanding that homelessness is poverty without the key to a house. In other words, it’s not a homelessness crisis. It’s an affordable housing crisis.
People sleeping in doorways and on park benches are only the tip of the homelessness iceberg. For every homeless person on the street, there are ten or twenty or thirty homeless people—including entire families—who don’t have a key to their own house or apartment.
In addition to people already homeless, about 34 million low-income Americans are at high risk of homelessness because they pay 50 percent of their income on housing. Most are only a paycheck or health crisis away from homelessness.
Homelessness became a national crisis more than thirty years ago, when federal support for public housing and other subsidies to low-income people stopped. So the solution to homelessness—a solution used by other developed nations that don't have the level of homelessness seen in the U.S.—in restoring federal support for affordable housing.
The National Housing Trust Fund
Passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, the National Housing Trust Fund was meant to be the first significant increase in funding in decades for affordable rental housing for extremely low-income people. Because of the 2008 recession, the Fund was unfunded. That ended last year, when the funding stream was re-established. In 2016, almost $200 million will go into the fund and be distributed to the states and territories. While this is a good start, it will not end the affordable housing crisis.
Tweaking the home mortgage deduction
Under current NHTF funding, Maryland will receive about $3 million in 2016 for low-income housing. A proposed law, however, would increase that funding ten-fold--to over $30 million dollars a year, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. By making modest changes to the federal tax code, and do it in a way that would make the tax break more fair, the Common Sense Housing and Investment Act would also expand the number of low- and moderate-income homeowners with mortgages who would get tax breaks. The NLIHC estimates the changes would save about $230 billion over ten years (and recommends reinvesting that savings to low-income rental housing through the NHTF). According to the NLIHC, the bill also would help lower rates of homelessness, all without using any additional government money.
How You Can Help
- By donating to HPRP, you can become part of our efforts to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, as well as supporting us as we work to change policies that affect people who don't have a home
- Sign up for our action alerts and events
- Visit our blog to find out more about what we do
Support the Common Sense Housing and Investment Act
Join United for Homes, the campaign to fund the NHTF through modifications of the home mortgage interest deduction. The Common Sense Housing and Investment Act would support renters struggling to meet their basic needs, while also converting the mortgage interest deduction to a 15 percent tax credit. The bill would expand tax benefits for more homeowners while giving people with disabilities, the elderly and lower-income working families better access to rental homes. The bill also would help lower rates of homelessness, all without using any additional government money.