The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials this week urged Congress to spend nearly $11.9 billion next year to house the poor, saying that amount is needed to "reverse a decade of federal neglect."
The figure does not include money for Community Development Block Grants and rural housing and development projects, which the association recommends funding next year at the current levels of $3 billion and $3.2 billion respectively. The Department of Housing and Urban Development received $13.5 billion for all of its programs for fiscal 1987.
Housing needs among low- and moderate-income Americans have "increased dramatically," but "the federal government has been engaged in a headlong retreat from its once-strong commitment to the goal of a decent home and suitable living environment for every American," said Melvin J. Adams, NAHRO president and director of development for the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission.
The HUD budget has been reduced by nearly 70 percent since President Reagan entered the White House seven years ago, cutting deeply into some low-income housing production and rehabilitation programs and killing others. Congress gives the department more money than it asks for each year, but has not been willing to fund the agency's programs at the higher levels of the 1970s.
Now, however, "Congress is beginning to recognize that housing and community development has taken a disproportionate share of budget cuts," Adams said.
NAHRO delivered its recommendations to Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), head of the housing subcommittee of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, who asked housing organizations and advocacy groups, developers, and academics for legislative proposals. Cranston and Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) say they hope to introduce a major housing bill in the next Congress.
The association, which represents 2,400 public housing authorities and community development agencies, believes state and local agencies should get much of the money it is recommending for housing programs.
The funds should come without strings, so assistance can be tailored to meet local needs, "replacing rigid national programs," the association said. The association's proposals also include a "flexible rental assistance" plan and a block grant program for low-income housing construction and rehabilitation.
The NAHRO plan calls for restoration of tax incentives that attracted developers and investors into low- and moderate-income housing construction. Many of the benefits were eliminated by the 1986 tax law.
A "new federal, state and local partnership for long-term investment programs" to improve communities also was proposed.
In addition, the organization urged "immediate federal action" to keep several hundred thousand existing units of privately owned, federally subsidized housing within the financial reach of low-income households. Requirements that the units be rented to low- and moderate-income families, a condition for receiving the federal subsidiies, will expire on these units during the next 15 years.
The association said 2 million units disappeared from the nation's supply of low-income housing between 1974 and 1983 because of deterioration or conversion to market-rate housing.
The group said nearly 8 million more low-income units will be needed by the year 2000.
Less than 20 percent of individuals and families eligible for government housing aid now are receiving it, and among the millions living in private units, 14.4 million households pay "well over" 30 percent of their incomes for rent, Adams said.
A "first-time home buyers savings plan" would be established under NAHRO's plan to help low- and moderate-income families purchase houses. Under the NAHRO program, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 would be amended to strengthen enforcement of its provisions.