Congress, Bush get this one right


Late last month, President George W. Bush signed into law the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, the most recent attempt by Congress to address the foreclosure crisis in the United States.

Thankfully included is the creation of a National Housing Trust Fund that sets aside $300 million to assist the lowest-income households across the nation by helping to build and preserve affordable rental housing. The Housing Trust Fund creates a permanent source of funding with 90 percent dedicated to the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income Americans, especially the elderly and the disabled. In a time when affordable housing is scarce in many states, including Rhode Island, this is a program that addresses a great need.

The NHTF, the first new federal housing production program in decades, comes at a time when the foreclosure crisis across the nation is increasing homelessness. It has long been advocated for and championed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a vital means of stability and sustainability for families and local communities. In their 2008 statement on Faithful Citizenship, the U.S. Bishops state: “The lack of safe, affordable housing requires a renewed commitment to increase the supply of quality housing and to preserve, maintain, and improve existing housing through public/private partnerships, especially with religious groups and community organizations.”

Along with the U.S. Bishops, other groups, including the National Coalition for the Homeless, called upon Congress and the Administration to address the need for more affordable housing and worked to ensure the much-needed bi-partisan support for the NHTF. Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development stated: “This new institution and resources are welcome signs that the Administration and Congress can work together across party lines to make housing needs of low-income families a common national priority.”

The passage of the National Housing Trust Fund is a clear sign that much of the partisan politics that dominates the nation’s landscape during election season can be set aside to address important priorities. The President and the Congress are to be commended for their efforts at ensuring that the neediest among us are provided a housing safety net. The National Housing Trust Fund is a welcomed first step in serving the common good of our nation.