Press Release — Jain releases statement with former Obama HUD Staff on President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda
Ashwani Jain served as one of President Obama’s White House Liaisons at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Montgomery County, MD — Maryland Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Ashwani Jain recently joined several former U.S. HUD colleagues in urging the White House and Congress to retain critical affordable housing investments, including targeted rental assistance, in the negotiations finalizing the Build Back Better Package.
This open letter was signed by more than 30 former HUD staff.
Dear President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, and Speaker Pelosi,
We have reached an unprecedented crisis in our country’s modern housing system — where millions of people lack access to affordable, safe, stable housing, and many more are living beyond their means in homes that they rent in a time in our country when everyone is fighting to survive a pandemic. Latest census numbers say that more than 7 million renters are behind on payments (13% of renters), at least 551,615 evictions have occurred since mid-March 2020, the average renter is cost-burdened, and unsheltered homelessness has risen every year since 2015. Affordable, safe, stable housing is a necessary base for all of our other goals, such as public health, racial and gender equity, education, and conservation: it is a human right. We are urging you — do not leave these millions of people and families behind as you are negotiating final spending in the Build Back Better Act.
Affordable housing priorities funded in the Build Back Better Act, if properly targeted, will lead us toward affordable, safe and stable housing, and will decrease racial disparities caused by historic and current racist housing practices and decades of community disinvestment.
With these values in mind, our priorities continue to focus on three areas:
- Expanding rental assistance, particularly the Housing Choice Voucher program,
- Investing in production and preservation of dedicated affordable housing through the National Housing Trust Fund and the HOME Program, and
- Making long-overdue investments needed to repair and preserve public housing.
These investments were promised and championed by President Biden during the campaign.
We understand the nature of government and the tough decisions that get made day-in and day-out on behalf of the American people. While we are not currently serving our country as public servants, we have each done so previously in roles that were committed to our nation’s housing needs. We know intimately that year after year affordable housing assistance only reaches a fraction of the people who qualify; and that there are devastating impacts of living even one night without safe and stable housing.
This moment in history, and the housing investments included in the Build Back Better Act, are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a down payment toward our nation’s values on housing. Many working class and middle class families are one crisis away from being unable to pay their rent or mortgage. This is the time to transform our approach to housing into one that believes every American deserves an affordable, safe and stable place to live.
CRITICAL HOUSING INVESTMENTS AT A CRITICAL TIME
Investments in the supply of affordable housing alone are not going to ameliorate our affordable housing crisis. When we approach affordable housing as a supply issue only, the most extremely low-income people, including people who are experiencing homelessness, get left out every time. Supply-side investments must be paired with rental assistance to support the very lowest income renters. As resources in the Build Back Better package are widely expected to decrease to accommodate the lower topline spending level, it would be a mistake to revert to
the supply-only housing investments that the Administration originally proposed, and leave out assistance that so many families and households need to thrive.
It is crucial that the Administration and Congress commit to ensuring housing choice vouchers are available to our country’s lowest income families and individuals, creating a path toward ending our shameful and growing homelessness crisis. The vouchers can be paired with the package’s housing supply investments and will be essential to ensuring that the lowest-income people (including low-wage workers, youth, seniors, and people with disabilities) aren’t priced out of the new homes built with those funds.
The House Financial Services Committee in September passed the Build Back Better package’s housing component, including voucher investments that would help roughly 1.7 million Americans secure affordable, safe, and stable housing (750,000 vouchers, 205,000 of which are set aside for people experiencing/at-risk of homelessness). It is not enough to cover the more than 10 million people and families who are severely rent-burdened, but it is a start that could propel us toward living into our nation’s values. Phasing in more vouchers over time — while also building more units as the Build Back Better plan proposes — will ease the financial strain on families living in those markets and keep low-wage workers, youth, seniors, and people with disabilities from being priced out.
The total rental assistance included in the House Financial Services Committee’s September proposal was $90 Billion: $15 Billion for project-based rental assistance and $75 Billion for Housing Choice Vouchers. Of the $75 Billion, $24 Billion was set aside for families and individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. For every $5 billion reduction in the bill’s funding for vouchers, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 112,000 people who would have received voucher assistance once the expansion is fully in place will be left unassisted, greatly increasing the chances that they will experience homelessness, eviction, and other severe hardship. This would include 44,200 children, 22,100 people with disabilities, and 12,100 seniors. Some 79,100 (over seventy percent!) of those denied assistance as a result of such a reduction would be people of color.
ADVANCING RACIAL EQUITY IN THE HOUSING MARKET
Some 24 million people in low-income renter households — 62 percent of whom are people of color — paid more than half of their income for rent and utilities. But due to inadequate funding, only 1 in 4 eligible households1 receives rental assistance, and many who do get it wait years. Waitlists often reflect deep racial disparities. Black households are disproportionately represented on waitlists and in many cases are the majority2. More than 60 percent of low-income renters who face unaffordable housing costs are people of color. Insufficient funding prevents the voucher program from reaching this group of nearly 15 million, which includes 6.8 million Latino people, 5.8 million Black people, and 1.4 million Asian or Pacific Islander people. This reflects a historical lack of housing investment in our BIPOC families and communities, which is only furthers the devistating effects of historical and current racial housing discrimination.
People of color are also more likely to have experienced a loss in their income during the pandemic3. Unemployment levels, and disproportionate access to the kinds of jobs available in a recovering job market means that the same people stand to be left behind over and over again- in a job market where they cannot compete and a housing market that does not account for those with the lowest income levels or who are unable to participate in the same ways.
We believe you when you say that you want to build back better by advancing racial equity across the American economy. This investment would be a critical and bold step in addressing racial disparities in housing, reaching some of the lowest income households, and preventing and ending homelessness for millions. That is why we are standing together in this open letter to urge you to keep these critical investments in affordable housing in the Build Back Better Act.
Former Policy Advisor, Office of the Secretary
Obama Administration Appointee and HUD Public Servant from 2013–2016
Former Deputy White House Liaison, Office of the Secretary Obama Administration Appointee from 2015–2016
Former Chief of Staff, Office of Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity
Obama Administration Appointee and HUD Public Servant from 2009–2015
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, Office of Community Planning & Development
HUD Career Public Servant, 2007–2017
Former Assistant Press Secretary, Office of Public Affairs and Special Assistant to the Secretary Obama Administration Appointee from 2014–2017
Former Senior Advisor, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, Office of Community Planning & Development HUD Career Public Servant, 2006–2017
Former Acting Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Community Planning & Development
HUD Career Public Servant 1989–2014
Marion Mollegen McFadden
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Block Grants, Office of Community Planning & Development
Obama Administration Appointee from 2014–2016
HUD Career Public Servant 2000–2014
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Office of Public Affairs Obama Administration Appointee from 2014–2015
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Multifamily Housing Programs Obama Administration Appointee from 2010–2015
Former Director, External Affairs, Federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, HUD Obama Administration Appointee from 2009–2013
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Obama Administration Appointee from 2011–2017
Clinton Administration Appointee from 1993–1996
Former Special Advisor, Office of the Secretary Obama Administration Appointee from 2013–2017
Lynn M. Ross
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development Obama Administration Appointee from 2014–2016
Melanie Roussell Newman
Former Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
Obama Administration Appointee from 2009–2011 and 2013–2014
Former Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Secretary Obama Administration Appointee from 2015–2017
Former Assistant Deputy Secretary Field, Policy & Planning Obama Administration Appointee from 2010–2017
Marquita V. Sanders
Former Special Advisor for Health Programs, Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing
Obama Administration Appointee from 2014–2016
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Relations, Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Secretary
Obama Administration Appointee from 2012–2017
James J. Reed
Former Regional Administrator — New England Obama Administration Appointee from 2016–2018
Former General Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Housing Obama Administration Appointee from 2007–2011 and 2012–2017
Former Senior Legislative Advisor, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Obama Administration Appointee from 2011–2015
Former Director, Policy and Legislative Initiatives Division, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Career Public Servant from 2010–2017
Former Special Assistant, Office of the Secretary
Fellow, Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative from 2010–2012
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International & Philanthropic Innovation, Policy Development & Research
Obama Administration Appointee from 2010–2017
Former Senior Advisor, Office of Affordable Housing Preservation Career Public Servant from 2010–2014
Former Director of Speechwriting, Office of Public Affairs Obama Administration Appointee from 2013–2016
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Career Public Servant from 1992–1999 and 2010–2015
Former Senior Advisor, Office of Public Affairs Obama Administration Appointee from 2011–2017
Former Senior SNAPS Specialist, Office of Community Planning and Development Career Public Servant from 2012–2021
Former Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary Obama Administration Appointee from 2009–2013
Chief External Affairs Officer
Obama Administration Appointee from 2009–2012
Regional Administrator, Region VII
Obama Administration Appointee from 2013–2017