New Jersey Voters Express Strong Support for More Federal Funding for Affordable Homes to Address Homelessness

NJWASHINGTON, D.C.- Today, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, a NLIHC state partner released the findings of a state-wide public opinion poll that measured New Jersey registered voter support for changing the mortgage interest deduction, addressing homelessness, and creating more affordable homes. A sizable majority of registered New Jersey voters surveyed expressed support for increasing federal funding for affordable home development to address homelessness as well as opposition to cutting state funding for affordable homes to address the state’s budget deficit. Approximately half of New Jersey voters also expressed support for reforms to the mortgage interest deduction that would generate resources to be used to address homelessness.

The polling of 625 New Jersey registered voters was conducted from June 15 through June 17, 2015 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research and Belden Russonello Strategists LLC. Sixty-four percent of New Jersey voters polled supported increasing federal funding for affordable homes to help end homelessness. While most respondents expressed support for the mortgage interest deduction (MID), they also expressed considerable support for reforms that would make the deduction fairer and less regressive, and about half said they would apply any savings from MID reform to ending homelessness.

Fifty-one percent of New Jersey voters favored capping the amount of a mortgage against which homeowners can claim a tax break to $500,000 (down from $1 million currently). Only 38% opposed lowering the cap. Likewise, 50% supported replacing the mortgage interest deduction (which only those who earn enough to itemize on their taxes can claim and that disproportionately benefits households in the highest tax brackets) with a 15% tax credit that all homeowners with a mortgage could claim.  Only 40% opposed such a change.

“New Jersey voters’ support for smart investments to end homelessness is extremely encouraging,” stated Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “With these modest changes to the mortgage interest deduction, we could end homelessness in New Jersey and nationally without any additional cost to the federal government.”

When asked if they approve or disapprove of the New Jersey state government cutting funds intended for creating more affordable homes in order to reduce the state’s budget deficit, a resounding 66% “disapproved” and only 27% “approved” of such cuts.

“Our elected officials need to invest in ways to create more of the affordable homes New Jersey residents need and want,” said Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “This polling shows that voters want New Jersey’s budget to spur opportunity and help our economy and residents thrive.”

Housing advocates have called on funding for the National Housing Trust Fund as a means to create affordable rental homes for extremely low income families, thereby reducing homelessness. Several funding proposals are currently under consideration in Congress including reforming the mortgage interest deduction.

The margin of sampling error for a random sample survey of this size is plus or minus 4 percentage points. To read details of the survey, please visit the following link:  http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/NJ_toplines.pdf

A Real Solution

On Tuesday, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) gave a floor speech on his proposal to reform the mortgage interest deduction. The revenue raised through these smart and fair changes would allow us to address America’s affordable housing crisis by funding the National Housing Trust Fund.

Mr. Ellison raises an important issue: “The budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development we consider today does not meet our nation’s affordable housing problems.”

NLIHC and the United for Homes campaign agree with Mr. Ellison. We need to engage in real solutions to help the millions of Americans who are struggling to maintain housing stability… And reforming the mortgage interest deduction to be a more accessible tax benefit that also opens up the opportunity to create more affordable housing in communities across America is just that. 

Do you think it’s time that our budget responds to the 7 million extremely low income American households that cannot find an affordable and available home?

If so, join us in supporting Mr. Ellison & the United for Homes campaign through 3 easy actions:
1. Share this blog post and the YouTube video, so that more renters and homeowners can learn about a proposal that would benefit both of them.
2. Tweet about it. You can also RT @NLIHC, tag @keithellison, and/or use the hashtags #NHTF or #UnitedForHomes.
3. Lend your support in the YouTube video’s comments section. Americans needs to know that we can end homelessness, and our policymakers and elected officials need to hear that we demand change.

Learn more and join the movement at http://www.unitedforhomes.org.

The Solution

Home is the foundation. How do we ensure that every American has an affordable one? Watch the video to find out.

Reflections from the Road, by Sheila Crowley

The first road trip of the United for Homes campaign took place last week in the state of Michigan. Joseph Lindstrom and I visited eight communities in three days meeting with advocates and providers of low income housing, services to people who are homeless, and services for people with disabilities. We visited a CDC in Flint, a public housing agency in Reed City, a service center for people with disabilities in Kalamazoo, a statewide meeting of homeless service providers in Ann Arbor, and more.

We learned that the voucher administrator in Traverse City may have to give up the program because there are not enough funds to keep running it. We were told about families living in deer blinds in rural areas. We heard people with disabilities express their fear that they will lose their homes because of the federal government shutdown. We talked to homeless service providers who have laid off many members of staff because of the sequester. Everywhere we went, the common theme was the housing shortage for people who are poor and a feeling of desperation that it would only get worse.

kalamaoo-sheila-maps

Sheila speaking in Kalamazoo

NLIHC received high praise for our research and the voluminous data we make available to advocates to use to make the case for more rental housing that is affordable to the lowest income families in their communities. But I heard something more about what these data mean to people who are struggling to help poor and homeless people find affordable homes. The data help them to understand why their jobs are so hard and to “maintain sanity” in the face of overwhelming need. The data explain what is really going on.

We spend a lot of time in our local meetings going over the details of the United for Homes proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised by modifying the mortgage interest deduction. We got a lot of good, thoughtful questions that indicated that how engaged people were. We were able to show how few people in Michigan borrow over $500,000 to buy homes (0.5% of all mortgages between 2009 and 2011) and how much money would come to Michigan to solve the housing problems of the poor if our proposal became law. Having something to work towards, instead of just defending the status quo, offers advocates hope.

Many thanks to our hosts across the state for the warm welcome and encouragement. We are honored to partner with you to advance the United for Homes campaign for as long as takes.

On the Road & Busting Myths

The United for Homes campaign is pretty straightforward:

We want to reform the mortgage interest deduction, which would create almost $200 billion in revenue over ten years. And then, we want to use this new revenue to finally fund the National Housing Trust Fund!

What may seem more complicated is the actual proposal to reform the mortgage interest deduction, but that too, can easily be broken down. There are two main points to our proposal:

  1. Reduce the size of a mortgage eligible for the tax break to $500,000, and
  2. Convert the deduction to a 15% non-refundable tax credit.

Under current law, taxpayers can deduct the interest paid in that tax year on a home mortgage of up to $1 million. United for Homes proposes lowering the cap from $1 million to $500,000.

Now here comes a big myth: This will hurt many homeowners in my community.

The reality is just 4% of all mortgages in the U.S. are over $500,000, according to an analysis of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data from 2007-2011.

As Sheila and Joe prepared to set out on the Michigan road trip, we took a deeper look at the mortgages in the state. Thanks to our savvy NLIHC Research team, we were able to prepare this map that reveals the percentages of mortgages over $500,000 in each county.

United for Homes

We have the opportunity to finally end homelessness! “Ah, but 0.1% of the mortgages in my county are over $500,000, so we cannot reform that tax break,” said no one ever.

The Michigan map has been very useful for Sheila and Joe as they present the United for Homes campaign, and we have state and county data available to help YOU educate others!

Yesterday in Flint, Amy Hoyer from Representative Dan Kildee’s office attended the community meeting. Amy spoke about the importance of advocates connecting with federal elected officials through calls and letters. She said it was critical that elected officials hear from their constituents on any proposal that may seem controversial.

United for Homes

Sue Hart puts a UFH bumper sticker on her car following the Flint community meeting. Endorse UFH in the next 2 minutes, and you will receive not 1, but 2 UFH bumper stickers! http://www.unitedforhomes.org/support

TAKE ACTION! We encourage you to contact your elected officials about the United for Homes proposal, and to use your state and county data to inform them on the actual percentage of mortgages over $500,000. After all, who doesn’t love bustin’ myths.

Click here to look up the percentages of mortgages in your state that are over $500,000.
For county data, email althea@nlihc.org.