Letters: Homelessness is all about affordable housing

Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 3:37 PM

In its editorial (“President’s homelessness czar could surprise us,” Dec. 24), The Durango Herald describes Robert Marbut, President Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as a “centrist” and “pragmatist.”

These characterizations couldn’t be further from the truth, and its conclusion that Marbut “deserves (an) opportunity to show his stuff” could result in real harm to those his agency was created to serve – people experiencing homelessness.

There is nothing centrist or pragmatic about Marbut’s unwillingness to follow evidence-based approaches to ending homelessness.

Marbut ignores decades of learning, research and bipartisan agreement that the solution to homelessness starts with an affordable home. He rejects this housing-first approach, identified as a best practice by the agency he leads.

The underlying cause of the homelessness crisis is the severe shortage of homes affordable and available to America’s lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children and other individuals. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s research shows there are fewer than four homes for every 10 of these extremely low-income households; as a result, 71% pay at least half of their income on rent.

Research from Zillow shows that paying more than 30% of one’s income on rent greatly increases the risk of housing insecurity and homelessness.

Despite the clear need, however, only one in four eligible households receives any help because of chronic underfunding. Every community – urban, rural and suburban – is impacted.

Homelessness is one of our country’s most urgent, tragic and solvable crises. We can’t end homelessness, however, by ignoring the evidence about what works.

Diane YentelWashington, D.C.Editor’s note: Diane Yentel (who was quoted in the editorial) heads the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a nonprofit agency.