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National Low-Income Housing Coalition
Out Of Reach Report Press Conference

September 20, 2000

Thank you very much. First, let me applaud Sheila Crowley and the National Low-Income Housing Coalition for their great work once again.

This Out of Reach report could not come at a more important time, or could not be more powerful in its statement. The numbers clearly point to the crisis of affordable housing that we have today. And as usual, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition has been a tremendous voice for the housing needs of this nation, and I applaud them all.

Senator Jeffords, it's a pleasure to be with you, sir, and Senator Kerry, it's a pleasure to be with you. Senator Kerry is doing some really exciting, progressive housing work. I think that this year, in the eight years that I've been at HUD, first as the assistant secretary, and then as the secretary, I think some of the most exciting housing work is going to be done this year. And I think Senator Kerry, with his production bill 2997, is really bringing us to places that we haven't been before. And I applaud him for that.

What this report says in staggering statistics is that there is an affordable housing crisis. If you earn the minimum wage, you cannot pay what we call the Fair Market Rent in any jurisdiction in the nation. It is devastating news for affordable housing.

It's almost counterintuitive, because in many ways, things are so good, people don't understand why we have this housing crisis. It's actually because things are so good that we have this housing crisis. The economy is so strong that it's driving up values across the board. Home values are going up; rents are going up.

And that's great if your income is skyrocketing. But if your income isn't skyrocketing, you have that gap between what you make and what the market is charging. That's the affordability gap. According to HUD's worst case needs report, 5.4 million families need affordable housing -- the highest number in the history of the nation, the highest number since we've been keeping numbers.

So we need to close the housing gap. Luckily, this is not complicated. We know how to do this. This is not rocket science. If it was, there would be a different HUD secretary. We know how to do affordable housing. It's a function of numbers. You have to close the affordability gap.

How do you do that? Well, you can raise the income. People make more, and they can pay the rents where they are. That's raising the minimum wage. I'm in favor of that.

Or you can subsidize the cost of the housing. The President's budget this year lays out two ways to do that. First, more Section 8 vouchers. We have proposed 120,000. That is a step in the right direction, but frankly, it's only a step -- some would say a small step. We need at least 120,000 Section 8 vouchers to provide rental subsidies and mobility. It's a very valuable, necessary tool.

But as Senator Kerry points out, and as Senator Bond points out, housing vouchers alone are not a housing program for the nation. We also need to produce units, because in some markets, you don't have units available, and therefore, the voucher doesn't work. The Section 8 program does not work in those markets.

So, you need a production program. That's what Senator Kerry has put forth, this is what President Clinton has put forth. Senator Bond has suggested that he would support a production program in concept.

We need a production program that works. For us, a production program that works has three elements.

First, it has to be targeted to the extremely low-income.

Second, it has to be mixed-income; we don't want any developments of 100 percent poor people. We've done that in the past. It doesn't work.

And third, it must be accessible to what we call the intermediary organizations. We have a great infrastructure of housing organizations in this nation: Community development corporations, not-for-profit organizations, as well as public housing authorities, state agencies, etc. We should use all that talent to produce housing.

The President's bill is an aggressive budget bill for HUD. It would bring us to the highest level we've had in twenty years. The House budget is about $2 billion below the President's request. The Senate budget is about $1.8 billion below the President's request. We hope both the House and the Senate will come up to meet the President's mark.

We hope to have the vouchers. We hope to have the production program. We hope to close this affordable housing crisis, and really take this to a new level.

My last point is, in the eight years I've served, there has never been a better moment in time to address this problem than today. We have a great economy. We have a record surplus, we have a great housing network out there.

Let's just put the funding that we need into these programs. Let's invest in America. Let's invest in housing. It will only make this nation a stronger nation, which is in everyone's best interest.

I once again applaud the National Low-Income Housing Coalition and Sheila Crowley, and Senator Kerry and Senator Jeffords. It's been my pleasure to be with you today. Thank you very much.

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