Congressional spending cuts injury and insult for poor families

By Staci Berger and Bridget Phifer
Published MAY 17, 2023

At a time when almost 70% of NJ’s poor can’t find affordable housing, potential spending cuts by GOP-led Congress are indefensible

The Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey is disappointed and frustrated with the news that the GOP-led Congress is considering spending cuts at a time when countless families are struggling to make ends meet. Housing costs are skyrocketing, and these proposed cuts come at a time when a massive gap exists between the supply and demand of affordable rental homes.

According to recently published research from the network’s national partner, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, every 100 households at or below the extremely low-income threshold in New Jersey must compete for only 31 affordable and available homes. In other words, roughly 69% of extremely low-income renter households in New Jersey will not secure a home that’s affordable, a staggering statistic. Nationally, 65% of extremely low-income families are searching for an affordable place to live.

Despite this chasm between supply and demand of affordable homes, Congress consistently fails to fund federal housing programs at a level commensurate with need. As a result, only one in four eligible families receive federal housing assistance. The remaining three-quarters of families eligible for federal assistance must struggle in the rat race to secure affordable housing. Most of them won’t find it. This cycle of housing instability is a policy choice. The White House predicts that the proposed budget cuts would exacerbate this crisis, with over 20,000 New Jerseyans estimated to lose access to federal rental assistance. Even a New Jersey state budget that fully supports affordable homes cannot address the assistance we need from the federal government.

All of this is happening while pandemic-era renter protections are expiring. Our members are seeing families facing rising rents, utility shutoffs, inflation, a wave of evictions and a spike in homelessness. Multiple families are living in unsafe conditions, trying to save money. In response, some elected officials in Washington, D.C., are planning to continue to tighten the belt around disappearing waists. 

This isn’t the first time that a Republican majority forced austerity measures on the nation in an era of historic need. In 2011, as working-class families struggled to survive the Great Recession, the Republican House implemented a decade of low spending caps that kept federal resources out of reach for those hit the hardest by the recession. As usual, Black and Brown families, folks living with disabilities, and seniors suffered the most. Now, we get the same song and dance as yet another GOP-led Congress sets the stage to perform the same tried-and-failed austerity policies.  

The network urges Congress to pass a fiscal year 2024 federal budget that meets our communities’ needs. Rather than walking down the well-trodden path of deep budget cuts that threaten the survival of our most vulnerable neighbors, Congress must ensure that federal housing programs are fully funded — increasing the number of families eligible for rental assistance, strengthening renter protections and building more low-income housing, so that everyone can live in an affordable home.

No one should have to decide between paying their rent and putting food on their table or choosing whether to pay the utility bills or medical bills — certainly not in of the one of the wealthiest nations. Congress can and must pass a budget that tightens and expands the safety net to ensure that no one faces such an impossible choice.