.- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) praised a bi-partisan congressional effort to create a Housing Trust Fund they say will assist the lowest income households in the U.S. by aiding the construction and preservation of affordable rental housing.
The fund was created by a provision in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Wednesday.
A permanent program with a dedicated source of funding, at least 90 percent of the fund must be used for the production, preservation, rehabilitation or operation of rental housing. Ten percent of the fund can be used for helping first-time buyers with down payments, closing costs, and interest rate buy-downs.
Seventy-five percent of the funds must benefit extremely low income households, that is, those at or below 30 percent of area median income.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the respectively nicknamed Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, are required to make annual contributions to the Housing Trust Fund.
The fund itself is to be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will make grants to states and allocate funds to qualified organizations and agencies that build and operate affordable rental housing.
Had the Housing Trust Fund been fully implemented in 2008, its financial resources would have stood at an estimated $300 million. Its present financial resources are expected to grow over time.
The U.S. Bishops have advocated the creation of the national Housing Trust Fund for more than a decade.
“The Bishops’ conference has worked for years to enact a national Housing Trust Fund because affordable housing is vitally important to the stability and sustainability of families and communities throughout the country,” commented Bishop William Murphy, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“This new institution and resources are welcome signs that that the Administration and Congress can work together across party lines to make the housing needs of low-income families a common national priority,” he continued, speaking in a USCCB statement.
Bishop Murphy said the national effort could be a possible model for state and local efforts.