September 19, 2002

Awaiting Federal Help, Mayors Lead Local Efforts to Address National Housing Crisis

Los Angeles -- The nation's mayors say America's housing crisis requires federal action, but they are not waiting for Washington to act. Instead, they are doing all they can to address the housing crisis at the local level.

During a press conference at Offsay/Steinhauser Village today, mayors on the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Mayors praised Mayor Jim Hahn's newly created $100 million local Housing Trust Fund as one of the nation's best examples of effective local efforts to address the housing crisis.

"The housing crisis is a national problem and it requires national action," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has made housing his top priority as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "But mayors across the country are not simply waiting for Washington to act. They are leading creative and effective local efforts to preserve the housing we have and create the housing we need."

In March 2002, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in support of Mayor Hahn's proposal for a $100 million Housing Trust Fund. This is the single largest commitment to affordable housing in the city's history. Mayor Hahn recommended fully funding the trust fund, as a demonstration of the City's commitment to providing safe, decent, affordable housing for all residents of the City of Los Angeles. In the 2002-2003 fiscal year budget, the Mayor appropriated $42 million to the Housing Trust Fund.

"It is so appropriate that the U.S. Conference of Mayors is bringing the severe shortage of safe and affordable housing to the forefront of the national stage," said Mayor Hahn. "Today, we are stepping away from rhetoric to look at the great impact affordable housing has had on this neighborhood and these families who live here in Van Nuys." According to a recent report by the Center for Community Change, there are more than 275 housing trust funds in operation across the country, providing at least $750 million per year to support critical housing needs. Housing trust funds provide dedicated revenue to address urgent local housing needs. Every dollar invested in housing leverages $5 to $10 from other sources, creating significant local economic impact.

Housing costs are rising much faster than incomes. In 1999, a staggering 14 million households spent more than half their income on mortgages or rent. Low-income families - even those with two earners - are locked out of home-ownership and find it almost impossible to rent affordable, decent apartments. Janitors are able to afford rent on a one-bedroom apartment in only six of the 60 largest housing markets in the country. Retail salespersons are able to afford rent in only three. In no state does a full-time minimum wage job enable a family to pay fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

The nation's affordable housing crisis is not just hurting poor families. Middle-class families cannot find affordable housing in many markets. And there remains a significant gap between homeownership rates for whites and non-whites. Homeownership rates for blacks and Hispanic remain around 45%, considerably lower than the 73% homeownership rate for whites.

In May, Mayor Menino led a National Housing Forum, at which mayors, members of Congress, and representatives from the education, public health, labor, business, and senior communities developed and released a comprehensive set of housing policy recommendations. The recommendations and other information about the housing crisis are available at

Also attending today's press conference were Hempstead (NY) Mayor James Garner, Conference Vice President, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Boise Mayor Brent Coles, Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, Gary (Ind.) Mayor Scott King, Palatine (Ill.) Mayor Rita Mullins, and North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays.

Nearly 50 mayors will meet with members of Congress in Washington on September 26, 2002 to build support for the needs of America's cities and their residents and businesses.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. The primary roles of the Conference of Mayors are to promote the development of effective national urban/suburban policy; strengthen federal-city relationships; ensure that federal policy meets urban needs; provide mayors with leadership and management tools; and create a forum in which mayors can share ideas and information.

Andy Solomon (202) 861-6766


©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors