[HOME Made]

PORTLAND - 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 Oregon HOME funds have been used to build or preserve some 5,000 units of affordable rental housing. Helped 1,880 families buy a home. Rehabilitated more than 540 houses, bringing them up to code. That's a lot of walls, President Bush might observe, that have been broken down.

Numbers alone don't tell the HOME 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 Oregon. Preserving and expanding the supply of affordable housing for low-income seniors in Astoria and in Lake Oswego, one of Oregon's most affluent communities. For young families and the elderly in Corvallis who are being squeezed out of the housing market by students at the ever-expanding Oregon State University. For hundreds of first-time homebuyers in Portland, one of the nation's tightest housing markets. For farm workers and their families in Forest Grove and Molalla. For families in Hillsboro and Portland's east side just starting out who depend upon affordable housing - and public transit - to "make it" in the big city. For families in Curry County whose manufactured housing - 40 percent of all housing units in the county - is in bad repair and badly in need of major repairs or replacement.

"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 and 1.2 million of HOME-funded affordable housing units later, has proven a commitment well-kept with, wrote a coalition of more than 1,500 national, state, regional and local housing and community development organizations "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."

But now that commitment is at risk. "Our families and communities deserve better," the coalition wrote. 25 years after he created HOME, President Bush likely would agree.


Content Archived: January 25, 2017