2005-10-28 / Community

Weiner: Don’t Cut Faith-Based Housing Initiatives

Congressman Anthony Weiner says that Congress is soon expected to pass a major housing bill that will create a new $500 million grant program for affordable housing. But in a last minute move, Republican leaders of Congress are pushing to include provisions that would prevent faith-based organizations from qualifying for the new funding.

Weiner, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Diocese of Brooklyn, demanded that House Leadership ensure that organizations like Catholic Charities are eligible to apply.

The Federal Housing Finance Reform Act, which is expected to be considered on the House Floor this week, will set aside 5% of the profits made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-governmental agencies created to help Americans buy homes, for a new $500 million grant program to help organizations that operate low-income housing and promote home-ownership among low-income families.

But Republican leaders are pushing to amend the bill to exclude organizations that do not list the construction or maintenance of affordable housing as their “primary purpose.” Moreover, they would prevent organizations that organize voter registration drives from participating. Because many faith-based organizations participate in a wide range of social services and cannot list affordable housing as their primary purpose, the Republican plan would largely exclude them from qualifying for a grant.

In New York City, faith-based organizations provide essential housing services to the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in need of affordable housing. In Brooklyn and Queens, Catholic Charities, the social services arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is the largest provider of not-for-profit low-income housing. Yet with 129,000 households on New York City’s public housing waiting list, Republicans are trying to keep faith-based groups from even qualifying for the grant program.

“The Catholic Community through our Charities agencies, dioceses, and parishes-serves tens of thousands of men, women, and children who struggle to maintain adequate housing,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “We have seen how inadequate, substandard housing hurts human life, undermines families, destroys communities, and weakens the social fabric of our nation. Despite our efforts—and the efforts of so many others-there just is not enough affordable housing available.”

Catholic Charities owns and operates nearly 3,000 units of low-income housing in 42 facilities, including 2,090 units for senior citizens, 480 units of family housing and 377 units of supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals - all linked to the social services network of the Church.

This would be the first time that a federal housing program excluded faith-based organizations. Organizations like Catholic Charities currently participate in HUD’s Section 202 elderly housing program, Section 811 disabled housing program and Community Development Block Grant Program.

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