As reported by USA Today, “a record 1 in 9 U.S. homes are vacant, a glut created by the housing boom and subsequent collapse”:
The surge in empty houses, condominiums and apartments is creating a wave of problems for communities desperate to shore up property values and tax revenues that pay for services. Vacant homes create upkeep and safety problems that ripple through neighborhoods.
This highlights a critical problem in addressing the housing crisis: what to do with all the empty, foreclosed upon properties dragging down home values for entire neighborhoods. One solution is “neighborhood stabilization,” a program “to help communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed, vacant properties.” Lo and behold, there is $2 billion in the economic stimulus package for just this sort of thing.
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), though, has taken to mischaracterizing the provision as funding for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). In a press release yesterday, Boehner called the $2 billion “pork” and “unfocused and wasteful spending”:
$2 billion for “Neighborhood Stabilization,” money which will be available to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an organization accused of perpetrating voter registration fraud numerous times in the last several elections and reportedly under federal investigation.
Remember when the Troubled Asset Relief Program was initially being discussed? Boehner fearmongered against that bill because it contained a supposed “left-wing giveaway Democrats are pushing to force taxpayers to bankroll a slush fund for a discredited ally of the Democratic Party”; none other than ACORN. The bill contained no such thing, but that didn’t stop Boehner, and his trumpeting of the false charge led to a low-income housing fund being stripped from the legislation.
The point of neighborhood stabilization is not to give money to ACORN, but to deal with the “blight of empty, poorly maintained and often vandalized houses that sorely need new owners.” As David Abromowitz explained, the funds would be used for “acquisition of foreclosed homes by a local community land trust, community development corporations, other non-profit groups, or a governmental agency”:
Once purchased, these homes would be promptly resold to a low- or moderate-income homeowner who would receive appropriate home buying counseling. This new buyer would purchase the property with a fixed-rate mortgage product that is affordable to the family’s particular situation, based on standard guidelines established by the state or local participating jurisdiction.
Furthermore, these are “shared equity affordability” arrangements, which means that any subsequent rise in the property of the house would be “shared jointly by the homeowner and the public.”
Now, it’s possible that a local chapter of ACORN could be one of the non-profits involved in this program, but that’s up to those dispersing the funds at the local level, not the federal government. And the overall point is to address housing at the community level, getting empty houses off the market and stabilizing prices. Once again, Boehner is using the spectre of ACORN to try to torpedo sensible housing solutions.