HOME Building

By Leland Jones
[HOME Building]

BOISE - There are exceptions, of course, but twenty-five-year-olds usually haven't - and aren't really expected to have - made their mark in the world. Just out of college, just starting a family, just thinking about buying a first home, or just launching a career or business, most of the contributions they will make to their neighborhoods, their city and their nation are still a few years ahead of them.

That's not true of at least one twenty-five-year-old - the HOME Investment Partnership program. Signed into law "with great delight" by President George H.W. Bush on November 28, 1990 as part of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act it quickly became the largest Federal block grant to States and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income families.

"This legislation represents true bipartisanship, considerable give-and-take, and good-faith negotiation," President Bush said. "It reforms and reauthorizes existing programs to provide for community development, to operate and modernize public housing, and to assist in meeting the needs of low-income families, the elderly, and the handicapped. In addition, through HOPE, it provides the potential for the redirection of housing policy back toward the poor."

Pure and simple, HOME is an affordable housing toolbox providing eligible state and local with, said President Bush, "a wide variety of approaches" and resources allowing them to:

  • Help homebuyers meet the down-payment and closing costs associated with their purchase;
  • Assist in the rehabilitation - up to code - of both ownership and rental housing;
  • Cover other "necessary expenses" related to the development of "non-luxury" housing:
  • Acquire or improve sites or demolish dilapidated housing to "make way" for HOME-assisted housing;
  • Offer tenant-based rental assistance contracts of up to 2 years.

The "landmark legislation," he said, would "break down the walls separating low-income people from the American dream of opportunity and homeownership."

So, was President Bush right? Has HOME fulfilled its promise? The numbers say "yes." Since 1990 in Idaho HOME funds have been used to build or preserve some 608 units of affordable rental housing. Helped almost 2,600 families buy a home. That's a lot of walls, President Bush might observe, that have been broken down.

Numbers alone don't tell the story. "An investment in HOME," HUD Secretary Julián Castro has explained, "is an investment in the American people."

You see that "investment" paying big dividends across Idaho. Visit Boise. It's used HOME funds both to preserve and expand its inventory of affordable rentals, especially for the elderly. It's also helping eligible homeowners with loans to rehabilitate their homes, bringing up to code and helping the Boise Ada County Housing Authority provide rent subsidies to even more families. It's helping to make homeownership more affordable, especially for first-time buyers. And it's using income earned from some of its HUD-funded activities - like loan repayments - to help finance a new program to make it easier for homeless veterans to find rental housing in one of the nation's hottest rental markets.

"Not good enough," say some eager to gut the HOME program. From 2010 to 2015, funding for HOME was cut in half. Today there are active efforts to cut HOME funding another 90 percent and "essentially eliminate the program altogether," the coalition observed. America, some apparently believe, can't afford affordable housing.

When, 25 years ago, President Bush signed the bill creating HOME he said it "presents us with opportunity to renew our commitment to the goals we all share: decent, safe, and affordable housing." Twenty-five years later a coalition of more than 1,500 national, state, regional and local housing and community development organizations that HOME has "a proven track record of successfully addressing the whole spectrum of housing needs, from homeownership to rental to rehabilitation and from urban to suburban and rural communities."

Today that commitment is at risk. "Our families and communities deserve better," the coalition wrote. You can be pretty the 1.2 million American families living in affordable housing produced or preserved by HOME funds would agree.


Content Archived: January 24, 2017