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Poverty & Race Research Action Council Applauds BPC Housing Report's Focus On Affordable Housing; Raises Concerns About Reduced Government Involvement

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) today applauded many of the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, which issued a report proposing a national housing policy that seeks to further the nation's economic recovery and meet the housing needs of America's most vulnerable households.   

Philip Tegeler, PRRAC's president, said his organization welcomed many of the Commission's recommendations, but questioned whether increased privatization, retargeting of housing assistance, and an outcome-based housing policy – all priorities in the Commission's housing report - can be implemented in ways that ensure a stable, accessible supply of affordable housing for the range of people who rely on it.

"Clearly, the Commission has made some recommendations that can improve the supply of affordable housing for families and individuals of all income levels," Mr. Tegeler said. "At the same time, we are skeptical about proposals that would significantly reduce government involvement in housing finance.  There may be legitimate concerns that the private industry will focus on reducing their risks and increasing profits and implement standards for mortgage loans that will leave sustainable homeownership out of reach for many Americans."

Another issue, Mr. Tegeler said, is whether liquidity for multifamily housing, including housing that is affordable for moderate - and lower-income families, could truly be ensured in a system that pares down the federal government's current important role in housing finance.

But Mr. Tegeler called it "very significant" that the Commission recommended that the federal government "encourage the removal of local and state barriers to the development of rental housing" by ensuring that "communities employing highly restrictive zoning" are "not rewarded with larger allocations of federal housing funds."  If implemented, Mr. Tegeler said this policy could help reduce segregated housing patterns in the country by opening the way for more development of affordable housing in affluent communities.

Mr. Tegeler also praised the Commission's promotion of de-concentration of poverty and access to neighborhoods of opportunity as one of the "key desired outcomes of HUD-funded rental assistance." The report noted the importance of programs such as mobility counseling, and stated: "Both research and practice confirm the harmful effects of concentrated poverty on the well-being of low-income housing households and the health and educational benefits of accessing neighborhoods.  While preserving individual choice, housing policy should strive to increase opportunities for households to find affordable housing in areas of opportunity and avoid concentrated poverty." 

The Bipartisan Housing Commission is comprised of former Cabinet secretaries, former Senators and other leading housing and economic experts. It is co-chaired by former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (D), former Senator Christopher S. "Kit" Bond (R), former Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez (R), former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros (D).

In the commission's report, Housing America's Future: New Directions for National Policy, they propose a new housing finance system that calls for a far greater role for the private sector, a continued but limited role for the federal government, the elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and reform of the Federal Housing Administration.

PRRAC is a leading voice advocating for more affordable housing options for low-income families, as well as public policies that promote fair housing and address housing segregation.  The organization connects advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and promotes a research-based advocacy strategy on structural inequality issues, including housing.

Mr. Tegeler was pleased that the Commission report emphasized the need for affordable rental housing and acknowledged that the demand for affordable rental housing currently far exceeds the supply. "We fully support the policy recommendation that our nation needs to 'increase the supply of suitable, decent, and affordable homes' through increased production of rental housing," he said.

Furthermore, Mr. Tegeler strongly agreed with the Commission's stance that a tax credit for renters, a proposal developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is worthy for consideration. The report said that this program could increase the ability of low-income households to pay prevailing rents in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The program would be administered by the states.

Mr. Tegeler said that PRRAC supports the Commission's recommendation for creating flexibility and new approaches in HUD rental assistance programs. Specifically, he noted that the report recognizes the current Small Area Fair Market Rent demonstration project as a new approach that could make it easier for voucher holders to move to better neighborhoods.

"The nation needs a vision for housing policy that focuses on the future," Mr. Tegeler said.  "In many ways, the commission provides that future outlook in this report. We look forward to working with the Commission, Congress and the Administration in making many of these recommendations a reality so that more Americans can live in communities that are thriving and will nurture their young."  

About PRRAC
The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a civil rights policy organization convened by major civil rights, civil liberties, and anti-poverty groups in 1989-90. PRRAC's primary mission is to help connect advocates with social scientists working on race and poverty issues, and to promote a research-based advocacy strategy on structural inequality issues. PRRAC sponsors social science research, provides technical assistance, and convenes advocates and researchers around particular race and poverty issues.  To join PRRAC's biweekly email list go to http://visitor.constantcontact.com/manage/optin/ea?v=001EZ1xV5UTY8vgeWJATo2EKGfv_t1AGWN24Cbm7mN40TiEoJwIcH-USz9QzZcKDa0zywZpmf7ylcI%3D

You can also follow PRRAC on twitter at https://twitter.com/PRRAC_DC, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Poverty-and-Race-Research-Action-Council/480723658639202 and at www.prrac.org.

Media Contact:
Michael Frisby • (202) 625-4328 • [email protected]

SOURCE Poverty & Race Research Action Council

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