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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Budgets & Values

“Show me your budget – I’ll tell you what you value,” – Pres. Biden remarked about one of his father’s old sayings.

On Thursday, the President delivered an overview of his budget request at a union hall in Philadelphia. Meanwhile in Harrisburg, Gov. Josh Shapiro received bipartisan praise for his spending plan for Pennsylvania delivered earlier this week.

I agree with Biden. Budgets are about values. So when you consider that states allocate less than 1 percent of total direct spending on housing and community development, what does that say about our values?

Source: Urban Institute

When compared with federal tax benefits for homeowners, programs that provide direct assistance for housing – such as vouchers and subsidized dwellings – are a fraction of homeowner assistance. For example in 2008, the federal government spent over $171 billion on homeowner tax benefits while spending less than $40 billion on direct housing assistance, according to the book, Evicted.

Tax benefits for the wealthy, such as the capital gains exclusion and mortgage interest deductions, could cover the cost of a universal voucher program for people who are income-qualified.

Today in Montgomery County, there is a waiting list of two to four years for nearly every subsidized apartment maintained by the local housing authority. Every few years, a lottery system is opened up for families to obtain vouchers to help off-set the rising cost of apartments. Imagine that – the same system used to assign professional sports’ draft orders and award millions in scratch off tickets? In the meantime, evictions rise when people cannot afford to remain housed. Between Feb. 26 and March 5, there were 1,918 evictions across Pennsylvania, according to the Eviction Lab.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the total is 224,940.

We can do better and it begins with our budgets.

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