Business Section

Thursday, November 11th, 1999

Open Door to Affordable Housing
Greg Frost Jr.

FOR THE FIRST time in 30 years, the United States is facing the pleasant prospect of a budget surplus.  At the same time, millions of Americans are suffering due to a severe shortage of affordable housing.
Today's worsening affordable housing crisis does more than put people on the street.  It tears families apart and destroys the health of young children.  As the number of low-income families lacking safe and affordable housing increases, so does the number of children suffering from asthma, viral infections and anemia.
These same helpless kids are also those most likely to be injured or die as substandard, high-rent hotels go up in flames.  With less affordable housing available, poor families are now paying half of their income for rent.
With so much of a family's limited resources going to the landlord, food becomes harder to buy.  Once again, children pay the piper in the currency of malnutrition and stunted growth.  As these kids begin school they are already conditioned for failure.  How can you expect a kid to excel in the classroom when he's hungry?
I would like to open a dialogue on this issue.  Surely, a reasonable percentage of our nation's budget surplus can be earmarked for affordable housing.  Monies could be applied to Section 8 vouchers.  These government rent subsidies help families reduce their monthly rent payments enough to put more food on the table.
We also need to increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.  This plan encourages private sector investment in the building of affordable housing.  In the past, most production of housing under this program was aimed at families earning 60 percent of an area's median income.  To really help America's families in need, that income qualification must be dropped significantly lower.....
Our nation can take on the affordable housing issue and win.  When we are successful, we can look on our generosity as another proof of America's greatness.