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[whitespace] Is Help on the Way?

By Greg Cahill

SOME OF THE lowest-income families in the nation will get desperately needed housing if President Bill Clinton's proposal to provide 120,000 affordable-housing units is approved by Congress, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said last month.

Clinton has announced plans to include $690 million in housing vouchers in the 2000 federal budget to provide new rental assistance for many of America's most hard-pressed families and seniors living on fixed incomes. "This is the largest request for new affordable housing in a decade," said Cuomo, who highlighted the detrimental effect that skyrocketing housing costs is having on seniors.

"It shows the president's strong commitment to increasing the supply of affordable housing at a time when the booming economy is driving up housing prices across the country."

HUD estimates that high housing costs are the most widespread problem among older Americans. About 1.7 million seniors with low incomes -- 7 percent of the elderly population, both homeowners and renters--are in urgent need of affordable housing.

Another 1 million elderly homeowners have serious home rehabilitation and modification needs that, if unmet, could force them to move or seriously diminish their quality of life.

By subsidizing the rents of low-income people by using vouchers, the new assistance would enable families to move closer to jobs and other oppor-tunities. People moving from welfare to work, homeless people, and others unable to afford decent housing also would benefit from the new assistance.

Families receiving HUD rental assistance vouchers usually pay 30 percent of their income for rent, with HUD picking up the remain-ing amount. About 1.4 million families receive vouchers under HUD's Section 8 rental-assistance program.

The news from the Clinton administration was greeted warmly by housing advocates, many of whom criticized Gov. Gray Davis for failing to consider using the state budget surplus for additional affordable-housing programs.

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From the February 3-9, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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