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Reform Jewish Movement Welcomes the Introduction of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2003

Saperstein: Jewish history, including expulsion and ghettoization, has taught us about the pain and indignity of not having a stable home…Now is the time for Congress to acknowledge the urgent need and support the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would triple affordable housing construction in the United States.


Contact:
Alexis Rice or Rachel Wainer 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2003 - In response to the introduction of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2003, which would provide the tools necessary to produce, rehabilitate and preserve at least 1.5 million affordable rental units over the next decade, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

With today's reintroduction of the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act, Congress takes a major step towards addressing the dire shortage in affordable housing for the poorest families in our nation.

There is a 2 million-unit gap between the number of affordable rental homes and the number of low-income households who need affordable housing. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that requests for emergency shelter increased by an average of 19 percent in 2002, the largest increase in 12 years. Horrifyingly, an average of 30 percent of the demand for emergency shelter went unmet. Given these statistics, the troubled state of our economy, and the severe state fiscal crisis, it is unconscionable that Congress did not pass legislation to support affordable housing last year.

Now is the time for Congress to acknowledge the urgent need and support the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would triple affordable housing construction in the United States. More than 280 state and local housing trust funds have produced hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing across the country, making housing trust funds a proven way to build desperately needed housing for low-income families. Housing production is also one of the most effective and efficient economic stimulants. According to a recent study by the Center for Community Change, a $10 billion investment in a National Housing Trust Fund would produce more than 368,000 jobs. When leveraged with private investments, 3.6 million jobs and $100 billion in wages could be created.

Two hundred members of Congress cosponsored the National Housing Trust Fund legislation during the 107th Congress. Nearly 4,000 organizations and many religious leaders have endorsed the National Housing Trust Fund Campaign.

Jewish tradition teaches that poverty is a powerless condition; homelessness is a dehumanizing experience. In one's home, even a weaver is a ruler (B. Talmud, Megilla 12b). In the sanctity of one's own home, the poor can be empowered and the hopeless can rejoice. As Jews, we are mandated by the words of the biblical prophets to "share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into your house." (Isaiah 58:7). Jewish history, including expulsion and ghettoization, has taught us about the pain and indignity of not having a stable home. Thus we are called on by our religious obligations and our history to provide for the poor and the homeless.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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