The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 26, 2014

Our View; Affordable housing key to homeless

Why it matters: Innovative housing solutions could lift homeless out of poverty

From a strictly economic perspective, we subsidize the housing of wealthy and upper income folks arguably more than we do the homeless and those in poverty.

The home mortgage deduction is considered among the most costly tax deduction or “tax expenditure” on the federal books, costing the U.S. treasury about $70 billion per year. We spend about $17 billion a year on subsidized housing for low income people.

So, it's not only fair to do something about housing for the homeless, it makes economic sense. Affordable housing programs give the homeless the one critical step up to self- sufficiency and out of poverty.

As detailed in the “No Direction Home” series in The Free Press published in December, the Housing Choice Voucher program, or Section 8, has been cut across the country and across the state of Minnesota. It generally provided low income people with funds to pay two-thirds of their usual market rate rents. Recipients are expected to pay a third of the going rent for housing. It allows people who get even a very low-paying job to have a roof over their head and some stability in their living situation.

Minnesota stands to lose 3,200 so called vouchers by the end of the year, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The sequester has cut back the number of vouchers Mankato has by 4 percent from 425 to 406. The city doesn’t even take names for a waiting list because supply is so short.

Minnesota Valley Action Council, which serves counties surrounding Mankato, has a 12-15 th month waiting list for its program. Officials say they there is a need that is threefold the current allocation. There are a number of other housing assistance programs that provide temporary payments to someone needing to stay in their dwelling, but those are also taxed.

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