Alibi V.28 No.18 • May 2-8, 2019 

On Assignment

Heinrich on Housing

Affordable housing equals progress

Senator Martin Heinrich visits an affordable housing project.
Senator Martin Heinrich visits an affordable housing project.
via heinrich.senate.gov

It’s not through accidental happenstance that Weekly Alibi supports and advocates for progressive solutions to governance, here at home, in our enchanting state and in the land we all call America, too.

One of the basic tenets of any forward-looking, moderately futuristic rendering of the map that shows where we want to go—where we’ll be as a culture in say, in 200 years—has to do with providing all citizens with adequate opportunities for food, shelter and education.

That’s an academic way of saying that until all of our fellow Burqueños, Nuevo Mexicanosla gente en todo, ese—have access to the basic necessities of life we will not be able to solve problems like crime, drug addiction, child abuse and a myriad of other issues that perpetually keep our species from achieving its potential.

Though it’s a clear message, it sometimes gets lost as it makes its way through the crowd of readers who wander through here. Some who read similar analysis in these pages believe it’s just hippie-dippy preaching to the choir stuff that gets printed here. But we’re serious: if we change even one person’s mind, if we can convince merely one reader per week that what we publish in these editorial pages is worth their attention—that the issues we speak to demand more—then we’ve done our job.

And that statement brings us to the focus of this week’s On Assignment. That has to do with Senator Martin Heinrich and the stand he recently took on affordable housing, a matter we consider to be of great importance.

Heinrich has long stood for such progressive values. He has been able to forge an identity that truly represents New Mexico’s future without eschewing traditional beliefs and practices, we might add.

In our conversations with the Senator, we’ve found that he’s committed to bringing our state to the fore through this combination of idealism and practical action. Those operating factors are clear in the latest developments on Capitol Hill, but particularly in the Senator’s involvement with a bipartisan letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development that strongly calls for increased funding for affordable housing programs under the aegis of Housing and Urban Development.

In particular, Heinrich and 40 of his fellow legislators urged action on Section 4 of the Capacity Building Program, an affordable housing and small business finance program that has been marked for elimination by the Trump administration.

In 2018, this source of funding provided $215,000 to recipients in New Mexico, helping subsidize essential affordable housing programs sponsored by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, Ohkay Owingeh and Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authorities, the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative and Tierra del Sol Housing Corporation.

Affordable housing is more important to New Mexico families than ever according the the legislators who wrote, “We are disappointed that the President’s budget has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development. Since the HUD Demonstration Act was authorized in 1993, Section 4 has proven to be a valuable and cost-effective program that has produced tangible results. Through a nationwide support network, Section 4 provides programmatic and training assistance to local organizations, ensuring program goals are met while granting the necessary flexibility to meet community-specific needs. As communities across the country continue to look for ways to expand economic development and provide affordable housing, funding for Section 4 remains critically important.”

The conclusion of the letter urges subcommittee chair Susan Collins (R-ME) and ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) to support funding for affordable housing because it works, a fact that is reiterated throughout the communiqué but best summarized as a function of the good economics that such funding bestows on American culture: “For each dollar of Section 4 funding, a total of $20 or more in private investment has been brought into local communities for economic and community development. From 2014 to 2018, Section 4 helped 973 local community development corporations nationwide leverage approximately $7.7 billion for community and economic development and helped to build or preserve more than 39,000 homes in low-income neighborhoods. “

Yeah, it’s pretty damn discouraging that Trump and company want to put the kibosh on such progress-oriented examples of good governance. But it is indeed encouraging that Senator Heinrich and a good number of federal legislators from both sides of the aisle continue to provide a clearly ethical and progressive voice as an alternative to such damaging detours from a sustainable path.