By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON - A decade after the housing bubble burst in the United States, affordable homes are available to as little as 20 percent of the poorest families that need them in some states, according to a report published by housing advocates on Thursday.
That national shortfall, despite showing some recent improvement, is still worse than it was before the 2008 recession, and experts fear cuts to housing programs in President Donald Trump's new budget could widen the gap.
"The president's budget proposal would exacerbate the severe housing crisis facing low-income renters" and "result in the loss of vouchers that help low-income families afford their rent", said Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
No state has an adequate supply of affordable housing, with urban areas particularly lacking, according to the report by the Coalition.
That translates into a national shortage of 7 million homes, Yentel said, noting that the knock-on effects of this gap are enormous.
"When people are affordably housed, their health improves, their kids do better in school and suffer less hunger, and they earn more over their lifetimes," Yentel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"With affordable and stable homes, people can more readily escape poverty and climb the income ladder, and seniors can age with dignity."
The United States will spend $111 billion in the coming decade in avoidable healthcare costs due to housing instability, Children's HealthWatch pediatrician Megan Sandel said in a media briefing on Wednesday.
In the United States, half of those considered to have extremely low incomes are seniors and those with disabilities. The group also includes a disproportionately high number of racial minorities, according to the new report.
Yentel points to declining federal investments in housing affordability as a primary factor in this gap — funding that would be further slashed under Trump's new budget proposal.
The budget presented on Monday seeks more than a 16 percent cut to the federal housing department.
It also calls for the elimination of a national housing fund that began functioning in 2016 and that Yentel says is "the first new housing production program in a generation" to focus on affordability for extremely low-income renters.
A spokesman for the housing department referred to a statement this week from Ben Carson, who heads the department, who praised the president's budget, saying it advances "key priorities" such as helping families receiving government housing assistance to "achieve self-sufficiency".
Trump's budget will need to be approved by Congress, which in the past has pushed back on similar proposed cuts.