May 3, 2001

Conference Leader Menino Urges Increased Partnerships for Affordable Housing

In testimony today before the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, Conference of Mayors Advisory Board Chair and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino recommended a four-point plan for easing the housing crisis in cities across America, explaining that the strong economy has caused housing costs to skyrocket, pricing many middle- and working-class citizens out of their homes and neighborhoods.

"...Prosperity has a price," Mayor Menino told the Subcommittee. "And for cities like Boston, that price is high-[our cities] risk becoming places where only the very rich and very poor can afford to live."

In his testimony, Mayor Menino noted that as the housing crisis has increased, cities have been impacted in a number of ways. For example, The United States Conference of Mayors 16th Annual Survey on Hunger and Homelessness in America's Cities found that:

  • In 2000, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 17 percent over the previous year.
  • Sixty-two percent of the people requesting emergency food assistance were members of families -- children and their parents.
  • Thirty-two percent of the adults requesting food assistance were employed.
  • In 100 percent of the cities, families and individuals relied upon emergency food assistance both in emergencies and as a steady source of food over long periods of time.
  • The average demand for emergency shelter increased by 15 percent-the highest one-year increase of the decade.
  • The average demand for emergency shelter that went unmet in 2000 was 23 percent. Survey results have found this number to be consistently high; for most of the 16 years in which the survey has been conducted, it has been reported at 20 percent or more.
  • Almost all the cities surveyed cited a lack of affordable housing as the primary cause of homelessness in their city.

Download a copy of the full report.

But, Mayor Menino cautioned, America's affordable housing crisis isn't simply "about assisting the poor and building public housing. It's about people who make a decent living and search the Sunday Real Estate section of the paper, shake their heads and wonder how this happened. And it's about parents who wonder if their children will be able to afford to live in the neighborhood they grew up in."

Calling on the federal government to 'get back into the housing business,' Mayor Menino recommended a four-point plan for doing so. The plan, which broadly reflects Conference policy adopted by Mayors across the nation, includes:

  • Creation of a new national housing production program;
  • An increase of the Low Income Tax Credit to help developers who build moderate income housing;
  • Encouragement of more flexibility in HOME to aid new homeowners; and
  • Rewarding cities and states with matching funds for housing investment.

"This is our chance to use our nation's surplus wisely," Mayor Menino said. Housing isn't a luxury; it's a fundamental right. With trillion dollar surpluses, families shouldn't be sleeping in cars, working men and women shouldn't live in tents, and our seniors shouldn't spend their later years trying to survive on the streets. We can right these wrongs by making housing a national priority."

Download Mayor Menino's full testimony.


©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors