Rep. Barney Frank gave a riveting speech to an appreciative crowd at today's conference luncheon. "The notion that the richest society in the world cannot provide decent housing for every one of the people who live here is simply unacceptable," he said. Frank is sponsoring a bill to create a national affordable housing trust fund, and he's very hopeful about getting it through.
"What we’re determined to do is to get the federal government back in the business of helping build housing that people of low income can afford," he said, criticizing 12 years of housing policy that has kept the federal government out of building housing for families.
Frank made it clear that when he said "housing" he didn't necessarily mean home ownership. "We have this notion that denigrates rental," he said. "I believe that’s one of the contributing factors to the sub-prime problem. People are owning homes that they could not afford. They'd be better off with decent rental." He called the notion that renters do not keep their homes maintained "an outrageous insult."
He hopes to get the housing trust fund bill passed by this fall. It has the potential to inject $900 million a year into affordable housing. Frank's approach is straightforward: "There will be no significant improvement to homelessness unless there are more homes available."
Next on the agenda: a meeting of the North Carolina conference delegation with Rep. David Price and his staff.
UPDATE: Storm delays kept Rep. Price from flying up from Raleigh in time to make the reception his office hosted for the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, but his staff was there. All North Carolina members of the House of Representatives were invited. Howard Coble made a brief appearance, and Sue Myrick spoke at some length on her commitment to the homeless.
This meeting was my first chance to meet Terry Allebaugh, executive director of Housing for New Hope in Durham. A committed advocate, in May, at Sen. Richard Burr's invitation, he testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in support of the Services for Ending Long-Term Homelessness Act.