The Common Good

Celebrating the National Housing Trust Fund

At long last the wheels of Washington have rolled out a bill to address the housing crisis! On July 30, President Bush signed the Housing and Economy Recovery Act into law. Despite its imperfections, the bill establishes an important provision for extremely low-income Americans -- the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NHTF).

This fund will provide much-needed resources for rental housing from a percentage of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's new business, thereby insulating the funding from the appropriations process in Congress. No less than 90 percent of the funds must be dedicated to "the production, preservation, rehabilitation, or operation of rental housing." NHTF is important for a couple of reasons. As Sheila Crowley notes, it is a part of the first housing production program to "specifically serve extremely low-income families since 1974." Second, the fund identifies and addresses the needs of the rental housing community, a community whose needs are often rendered invisible by narrowly defining the housing crisis as a homeownership crisis.

On a more sober note, the program will not be fully funded for extremely low-income families until 2010. Prior to that, many of NHTF's funds will offset the cost of loans extended by the Federal Housing Administration to struggling homeowners.

The establishment of the National Housing Trust Fund provides a victory for extremely low-income Americans and cause for Christians to rejoice. I, for one, will join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in celebrating.

Andrew Wilkes is a policy and organizing intern at Sojourners. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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