| Fixing Our Public Housing|
|Public housing has been an important part of the U.S. housing framework for decades. Low-income families often rely on public housing to give them the stability they need to pursue education and employment opportunities that will benefit their families. There are currently over 1 million public housing units in the United States, and most state and local housing agencies have long waiting lists of people who need permanent, affordable homes. In order to meet these needs, not only do additional units need to be built, but the existing ones must be properly maintained. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a report which indicates that a large number of the nation's public housing units are in need of "large scale" repairs like new roofs and updated plumbing or electrical systems.|
The report estimated that a total of $26 billion is needed to address existing repair issues, including lead paint abatement and updates for persons with disabilities. In addition to existing needs, ongoing maintenance is estimated to cost $3.5 billion a year. That figure assumes all capital needs are addressed immediately. If they are not, ongoing maintenance costs will certainly rise. At a time when Congress is so concerned about its finances that it won't even fund disaster relief unless there's a budgetary offset, the likelihood of repairing all 1.2 million public housing units is slim.
Though $26 billion is a significant figure, and represents dire repair needs in the public housing sector, it is worth noting that it's about a $10 billion decrease from 1998.
In an effort to address some of the more pressing repair needs, HUD recently announced it has awarded nearly $2 billion dollars to state and local housing authorities across the country. Though it is only a drop in the bucket compared to the overall need, it is enough to enable housing authorities to begin making some of the much-needed capital repairs, in addition to building new public housing units.
It is estimated that the United States looses several thousand public housing units every year, because they become so dilapidated that they are no longer safe. Some of this loss is off-set by new construction. But the cost of building new housing units is higher than the cost to repair them, so, while we may not incur a net-loss of public housing units, HUD continues attempting to reduce the number of lost units by allocating additional funds and initiating new programs - like the Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which seeks to convert certain types of public units into long-term Section 8 housing.
HUD continues to actively encourage the repair and rehabilitation of public residential units, which are so badly needed, especially in the current economic climate when so many people have lost jobs or have their salaries dramatically reduced.