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Letter: Let’s expand programs for low-income housing

Let’s expand programs for low-income housing

Stephen Coye, in his Oct. 25 Another Voice, is right to highlight the opportunity that federal tax reform represents for better serving the needs of small towns and rural communities in Western New York. Where we depart, however, is a matter of priorities.

Many people believe that the mortgage interest deduction (MID) is a tax benefit for the middle class, but it is actually one of the largest handouts to wealthy households in the U.S. tax code. MID costs $70 billion per year, and 75 percent of that investment goes to the top 20 percent of income earners nationwide. Only 51 percent of mortgage holders even claim the MID, because most middle- and lower-income homeowners do not earn enough money to itemize their tax returns. Meanwhile, research indicates that in Buffalo, 79 percent of households with the lowest incomes spend more than half their incomes on rent.

Members of Congress should use tax reform as an opportunity to address the housing needs of people with the lowest incomes. They should modify MID and rebalance our federal housing investments in favor of those with the greatest need. Doing so has the potential to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal revenue, which can be used to expand low-income housing programs.

By adjusting the priorities of how our federal government invests in housing, we can end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all. Solutions exist to America’s most pressing challenges. All that’s missing is the political courage to implement them.

Blair Sebastian

New York State Rural Advocates

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