Last week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, delivered remarks in Washington, DC at the Save HUD 202 Rally. At the rally, which was attended by residents of HUD Section 202 Housing for the Elderly, affordable housing advocates, and Members of Congress, Ranking Member Waters warned of the catastrophic harm that would result from the Trump Administration’s budget request, and pledged to continue to fight to protect affordable housing programs.
On the same day, Ranking Member Waters also spoke at a meeting of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, where she again sounded the alarm about the harmful Trump budget.
Ranking Member Waters’ remarks at the rally event are below.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for the warm welcome. It is an absolutely critical time for all of you to be in Washington, DC. It’s time to sound the alarm. We are up against a President who does not care about housing security for our nation’s seniors. We are up against a President who has proposed dangerous cuts to, or eliminations of, important housing programs. His budget proposal would:
- Cut nearly $2 billion in funding for public housing
- Cut nearly $1 billion in funding for section 8 housing choice vouchers
- Eliminate the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
- Eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program
- Eliminate the HOME Investment Partnerships program
- Underfund Section 202 and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
- And, the budget contains no new funding to create new housing for seniors.
Many of these programs on the chopping block are essential to our nation’s low-income older adults. In particular, the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program is the only HUD program solely dedicated to providing affordable housing for low-income elderly households, serving approximately 400,000 elderly families. In addition, over half of the recipients of public housing, and Section 8 Tenant Based and Project Based Rental Assistance are elderly or disabled. Programs like 202, public housing, Project-Based Section 8, and Housing Choice Vouchers are critical to helping low-income seniors age in place and live with dignity. This is no time for this nation to renege on our commitment to our nation’s older adults. The latest Census Bureau data projects that there will be 79 million seniors in 2035, twice as many as in 2015. And while housing is the cornerstone of the health and well-being of senior households, the foreclosure crisis has had an especially devastating impact on older Americans. It left too many senior homeowners facing foreclosure, with underwater mortgages, or with wealth-draining reverse mortgages. These households lost their ability to age in place, and they lost equity in their homes that represented economic security in retirement.
The housing crisis also pushed many older households into the rental market. In fact, older households aged 55 and over accounted for fully 44 percent of renter household growth between 2005 and 2016. In the face of rising rents, for older renters, access to federally subsidized housing is key to financial stability. Unfortunately, of the 3.9 million seniors eligible for assisted housing, only 1.4 million (36 percent) of very low-income persons aged 62 and older receive the rental assistance that they so desperately need. Moreover, nearly half of all seniors live with incomes below 200% of the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And elderly people of color experience poverty at much higher rates.
So those are the challenges we are up against. But instead of investing in affordable housing for older Americans, President Trump is taking an axe to the support that does exist. He would have us return to the dark days when our nation’s seniors were forced to live in dilapidated settings – firetraps, and so on.
We cannot let him get away with it. We need to increase our investment in housing for our seniors to meet the growing need, not take our country in the wrong direction with funding cuts. The federal budget should not be balanced on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, including seniors. Of course, we all know who Trump has made his HUD Secretary – Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon with zero experience operating affordable housing programs. We now have a Secretary of HUD who has said that poverty is really more of a choice than anything else, and that subsidized housing shouldn’t be too comfortable. Our seniors need housing that accommodates their needs, including accessible entrances, and supportive services on-site. And the federal resources dedicated to ensuring that seniors have safe and decent housing that serves their needs need to be increased, not cut. If Trump and Ben Carson think that they are going to get away with making housing for older adults less comfortable, or taking away their housing, they have another thing coming to them.
As Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, I am committed to fighting these shameful cuts. And of course, I’m not alone in this fight. All of you here today are right there with me in opposing these funding cuts. You have all been on the front lines of demonstrating how bad these cuts would be. Please let your community members know about the harmful plans that the Trump Administration has for these important housing programs and how those plans will impact them. I am so appreciative of the tremendous collaborative effort on the part of churches, religious groups, and non-profit organizations that are all working to improve the living conditions for seniors. Thank you so much again for inviting me here today, and thank you for the important work that you do.