Recently, the Mercy Housing board and staff convened in Washington, DC to bring our message to Congress. More than 40 of us visited with dozens of members of both parties of Congress and their staff to talk about how important federal funding is for the people we serve and the homes we build. Fittingly, we arrived during the week that the Sequester took effect, and the collective frustration was palpable in the body language of nearly everyone we encountered.
We didn’t go to DC to feel sorry for ourselves, so in true Mercy Housing fashion, we pressed forward to deliver our message that affordable housing makes a huge difference in the lives of our residents. We also stressed the importance of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit as a funding platform for creating housing for seniors, families and veterans as well as supportive housing for formerly homeless people. While the Tax Credit program is well liked in Congress, there is some chance that tax reform could negatively impact the funding for affordable housing. While we didn’t leave the Capitol having turned back the Sequester or with promises of future appropriations, our message was generally well received by Democrats and Republicans.
After a day of advocacy, we hosted a reception and Sister Lillian presented the Spirit of Mercy Award to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio). After expressing her appreciation for the award and our work, Congresswoman Pelosi treated the crowd to some great stories about how she first helped secure passage of the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS legislation. Mercy Housing also honored Congressman Tiberi for his strong advocacy on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
You may also be wondering how the Sequester will affect Mercy Housing and the people that we serve. While it’s hard to generalize about a measure that affects most types of federal spending, the most direct impacts to housing are the cuts in the HUD budget. HUD funds rental vouchers, public housing operating subsidies and capital funding for new development and all are being hit. While Mercy Housing’s properties may see some reduced revenue, the bigger impact is on residents with individual vouchers. It is unclear whether local housing authorities will cut the per-household rental subsidy, not issue new vouchers or even take back existing vouchers. The effect is likely to be immensely harmful whichever path they take.
In a country still recovering from the foreclosure crisis and recession, we can ill afford to further reduce housing options. In fact, the Congressional Budget Policy Project is predicting California will lose 16,000 vouchers due to the Sequester this year. That’s why your continuing support is more important than ever.
To find out more about our efforts or to make a contribution, find us online at www.mercyhousingcalifornia.org.