- - Monday, November 25, 2013

As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but no one is entitled to his own facts. While I respect the right of op-ed writers Norbert Michel and John Ligon to oppose the National Housing Trust Fund, they have no business misrepresenting what the trust will do (“Why are Fannie and Freddie funding advocacy?” Commentary, Nov. 21).

The first misleading statement in the piece is that Fannie and Freddie would fund advocacy. The statute explicitly prohibits the use of funds for anything other than housing, including anything “political.” The core purpose of the National Housing Trust Fund is to build, preserve, rehabilitate and operate rental homes that are affordable to extremely low-income families ($32,190 or less a year in metro Washington). Up to 10 percent of the funds can be used for homeownership activities.

What’s more, those of us who have been advocating for the National Housing Trust Fund for more than a decade are the most adamant that the funds should be used only to directly create and operate homes that the lowest-income families can afford. And we want the strictest possible oversight and accountability Congress can provide.

The second untrue statement is that the Housing and Urban Development secretary has discretion in deciding which states will get funds from the National Housing Trust Fund. Again, the statute is clear: The National Housing Trust Fund is a block grant to states, with the amount to each state determined by factors specified in the statute. The secretary also is required to recapture funds if a state has not used them after two years and distribute them to states that will use them. This is standard good-government policy.

Today, for every 100 extremely low-income families in our country, there are only 30 apartments or single-family houses available to them at rent prices they can afford. The shortage of housing for people in this income group occurs in every city and county. This is why homelessness persists in the United States. And this is why senators on both sides of the aisle support a dedicated source of revenue for the National Housing Trust Fund in housing-finance reform legislation.

SHEILA CROWLEY
President and CEO
National Low Income Housing Coalition
Washington