Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Housing trust fund is an idea whose time has come

It's listed on page 45, under "Focus Area 5," as one of several action steps: "Implement Housing Trust Fund."
Four basic little words, supporting an it's-about-time program that will potentially change thousands of lives. Working, lower-middle-class people trying to buy their first home. Single mothers sleeping in their cars. Folks who bed down in Tent City.

"Shelter is one of the basic needs," said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Nashville Area Habitat for Humanity, and the chairwoman of a committee proposing a housing trust fund.

"If tonight I've got to worry about where I'm going to sleep and what I'm going to eat, that's all I'm going to focus on."

RelatedNashville releases plan to reduce poverty

The housing trust fund is part of a 76-page report unveiled yesterday by Mayor Karl Dean, called the Nashville Poverty Reduction Initiative Plan. It's one of those mammoth documents that have a lot of "well, duh" action steps to hit an ambitious goal: reduce poverty in this city by 50 percent in a decade.

Every mayor in Metro Nashville's history has produced these sorts of reports. They require a great deal of meetings and summits and task forces and "community input," and are often designed as little more than campaign window dressing.

This report has a great deal of that. Is it any surprise that the lives of poor Nashvillians would be improved if they had readily available day care? But the housing trust fund idea is solid and doable.

Nashville has a dedicated funding source to pay for public art. So why not follow the lead of 600 other communities and create a fund to help people have an affordable roof and walls?

This would provide real change. Police and business folks who clamor to oust the homeless from the streets should embrace this. Banks would much rather see a young couple pay their mortgage than slip into foreclosure. Renters could become buyers.

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Washington Report: New BudgetBill would let Mayor Karl Dean appoint housing agency director