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Activists Sue Federal Agency for Illegally Withholding Affordable Housing Funds

A lawsuit alleges that the Federal Housing Finance Agency has withheld $382 million from the National Housing Trust Fund.

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She said, “I never considered how hard it could be to find an affordable place to live. I never thought that I would find myself unemployed. Not in this country. Not in this century.”

Samuels is currently living at her sister’s house while she tries to secure steady housing. The waiting list for public housing and section 8 in Miami are closed.

She added, “People going through foreclosure, eviction and all those that can’t afford a place to live.…We are fed up. We’re not taking anymore of this. We need affordable housing.”

Sheila Crowley, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said that millions of working-class people, seniors and people with disabilities are completely cut out of the housing market.

She said:

The thing that’s important to know today is that all the federally assisted housing, including public housing, including vouchers, including the project-based section 8 stock as well as some of the smaller programs for elderly and disabled people, all of that is under threat because of the severe cuts to the domestic discretionary programs. All of HUD’s programs were subject to sequestration and so we’ve seen across the board cuts in all of those.

Crowley said that she hopes this lawsuit gets the attention of DeMarco, who has the authority to make sure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac make the necessary contributions to the trust fund so the program can get underway.

But, she adds, this initial source of funding just gets the program started. She said, “It is by no means efficient to address long-standing, and huge unmet needs. … And it is our goal to continue to push through as many different avenues of funding for the trust fund to bring it to scale.”

She said other ways to finance the housing fund include modifying the mortgage interest deduction, passing the Commonsense Housing Investment Act of 2013 and instituting the Robin Hood tax.

LaForest said it is important to remember that the housing crisis is not over:

On paper it appears that we’re coming out of the housing crisis because many of the Wall Street entities and hedge funds that were responsible for the housing crisis in 2007 and 2008 are going in and buying up huge swathes of foreclosed homes and turning them into rental properties. And these are now rental properties that not only can’t be afforded by the people who previously lived in the homes, but can’t be afforded by much of the surrounding community either. So we are on the precipice of another housing bubble that further exacerbates the situation.

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.