Last month, Habitat Chicago’s Jen Parks and Lauren Youngblood traveled to Washington, D.C. for Habitat for Humanity’s annual legislative conference Habitat on the Hill. Jen and Lauren were among 350 Habitat representatives who attended the conference to advocate for budgeting, policy, and programming that support stable, affordable housing. 


From renting to owning, the United States is facing a housing affordability crisis. The cost of housing is skyrocketing across the country, while wages are not keeping pace, meaning the stability that home should bring is getting further and further out of reach for more and more people.


In the United States,

>> Nearly one-third of households are cost-burdened (paying more than 30% of their income) or severely cost-burdened (paying more than 50% of their income) by the amount they are spending on housing.

>> After paying for housing, 38 million US households are cost-burdened and have very little income left to afford the cost of basic necessities, such as healthcare and food.


In Illinois,

>> 1 in 7 households spend more than half of their income on housing.

>> An individual needs to make $20.34/ hour, working 40 hours per week, to afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment.

>> There is a shortage of 309,287 affordable and available housing units for extremely low-income renters, with only 34 affordable units available for every 100 households.


For the last 20 years, Habitat has partnered with HUD and CNCS to implement federal programs that work to meet the housing needs of low-income households. Each year, Habitat affiliates across the country receive approximately $200-$300 million in federal funding through critical programs such as:


SHOP (Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity)

>> SHOP is the only HUD grant program that provides funding exclusively for homeownership projects. Since 1996, SHOP has enabled low-income families to become first-time homeowners, supporting strong housing markets and a resilient economy.

>>Habitat affiliates use SHOP funds to purchase land, acquire vacant homes, and develop infrastructure, enabling first-time homebuyers the opportunity to own a Habitat home.

>> Habitat has leveraged $1.4 billion of private community investments from the $222 million in SHOP funding received. 


HOME (Home Investment Partnerships Program)

>> HOME provides formula grants to states and localities, which can then be accessed by nonprofits like Habitat to fund a wide range of affordable housing activities, such as down payment assistance and land acquisition.

>> Used in every congressional district, HOME is exclusively targeted to support low-income households earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income.

>> Every $1 of HOME leverages more than $4 in additional investments.


CNCS National Service Programs

>> Habitat operates one of the most extensive national service programs in the country. Annually, Habitat hosts more than 500 AmeriCorps members in communities throughout the United States to help more families achieve a decent place to live.

>> Habitat covers approximately half the cost of each AmeriCorps volunteer, delivering results at a much lower cost than direct government services. 


Habitat on the Hill brings together Habitat homeowners, staff, volunteers, and supporters to advocate for safe and affordable housing in Washington, D.C. This year, meetings with lawmakers focused predominantly on adequate funding for SHOP, HOME, and CNCS, whose budgets are at risk of being cut in the FY20 federal budget.


Lauren and Jen met with the offices of Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Congressman Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia, Congressman Sean Casten, and Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin to share the stories of the families and communities we serve here in Chicago and ask each to support the following:

>> Fund SHOP at $15 million in the FY20 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, a $5 million increase from FY19.

>> Fund HOME at $1.5 billion in the FY20 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, a $100 million increase from FY19.

>> Fund the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) at $1.2 billion in the FY20 Labor-HHS appropriations bill, a $100 million increase from FY19, which would provide funding for AmeriCorps programs at $483 million.

>> Support comprehensive legislative solutions that consider four main issues to address the increasing cost of housing: production and preservation, access to land, access to credit, and communities of opportunity.


“Each legislative staff member expressed solid support for Habitat’s efforts and for the critical issue of housing affordability. They noted our requests, asked questions, and recommended we continue the conversation by inviting our representatives to build with us in Chicago,” said Jen Parks of her meetings on the Hill. “Habitat for Humanity's Government Relations and Advocacy team will continue the work in D.C. on a day-to-day basis. Our job now is to find ways to engage members of Congress locally and demonstrate the real impact of federal affordable housing programs in the lives of the people we serve.”


You may not be able to travel to Washington, D.C. to advocate for affordable housing, but you can make a difference from home. Here are three actions you can take:

>> Sign our petitions to urge your representatives to support SHOP, HOME, CNCS, and other programs essential to the longevity of Habitat’s work nationwide.

>> Contact your Alderman informing him/her that you support affordable housing in your neighborhood and ask what s/he is doing to address it.

>> Learn more about the systemic causes of housing inequity by reading The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, the keynote speaker of this year’s Habitat on the Hill, or by following the Metropolitan Planning Council’s work on The Cost of Segregation.


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