The American Dream, to most Americans, is a simple one. Many tire and toil just to have an opportunity to raise a family in a place they can call their very own home. This dream is one that I am very familiar with. As a young man in Waxahachie, TX I lived in public housing and watched my father work three jobs so that he could eventually buy the home he still resides in today. My family’s story is one of uplifting success. Unfortunately, many others in our nation have not realized the same dream.
As a Member of the Financial Services Housing Subcommittee, it is my goal to work to ensure constituents in the 5th district have access to quality and affordable housing. We are now, slowly but steadily, making our way out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Home prices are rising, construction on new homes has surged to its highest levels since 2008, and foreclosure filings are at a five-year low. These are victories not only to applaud, but to build upon.
Green Impact Zone
One of my proudest accomplishments as Representative for the 5th District of Missouri has been my involvement in the creation of the Green Impact Zone in Kansas City. This area encompassing major parts of Kansas City’s urban core has become a national model for providing affordable and quality housing to those who previously lacked the ability to afford a home. With the help of federal grants and other funding, we have created a neighborhood initiative that has overhauled a number of dilapidated houses and neighborhoods and turned them into affordable, family housing. These houses set the standard for energy and cost-efficient homes that effectively utilize renewable energy sources and provide tools for residential control over energy consumption. Furthermore, existing homes in the area have been retrofitted with solar panels and in-home energy meters that help cut costs, increase energy efficiency and empower Kansas City families as homeowners. All of these efforts have attracted new business to forgotten neighborhoods in Kansas City contributing to a revival of our most historic districts. Simply put, efforts to promote home-ownership have set off a chain of events that have completely renewed the vitality of Kansas City.
The Fifth District of Missouri spans well beyond the confines of Kansas City, well into the rural counties of Central Missouri. As such, many of my constituents face very different housing issues compared to the urban housing issues that many automatically picture. While space is not an issue in places like Lafayette, Saline or Ray County, the number of affordable housing choices can be a challenge. Luckily, the U.S Department of Agriculture has an entire division devoted to addressing the specific issues facing rural communities. The Rural Development office works specifically for the men and women who live, work, and raise their families in America’s rural communities. By working with the Department of Agriculture and business leaders in the rural areas of our district, I hope to expand credit options and promote economic development for these constituents. The central focus of USDA - Rural Development's work is serving the men and women who live, work, and raise their families in America's rural communities. They know how — they have been doing it for 150 years. One woman in Missouri, the late Elvira Metz, began working for USDA-RD from the beginning in Benton, and later Sikeston, in 1935. The first office of USDA she worked in was in the basement of a courthouse, full of makeshift cardboard boxes used as furniture, an old-fashioned typewriter, and one bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. At that time there were no rural housing loans or any of the other forty programs now delivered by the USDA. The beginning loans that were made at that time were to purchase and operate farms. All farm ownership loans included an extra $25.00 for construction of a sanitary privy for the farmhouse. One borrower, she remembered, insisted that the privy be constructed in his front yard as he had never had anything so grand and wanted to show it off to all who passed by!
Things have changed since then, and the USDA, through Rural Development, has adapted, becoming a part of a community that understands issues and complexities that occur in a rural landscape. The USDA provides housing options that do not exist outside of rural America. The guaranteed loan program, which offers borrowers an opportunity for homeownership with no money down, keeps rural families where they want to be — in rural America. In my own district, 346 loans were administered in FY13. Missouri ranked as 7th in the nation in administering Guaranteed Rural Housing Loans. The Direct Loan Program is the only program in the nation specifically targeted to low and very low income rural families. Given the lack of credit options, the high rates of poverty, and the limited housing choices facing many in our rural areas, we must continue to keep USDA housing programs well-funded and productive.
The Homelessness Epidemic
Many might say “epidemic” is an overstatement, but in reality 1 in every 200 people became homeless at some during the past year. This number is considered a low estimation due to the difficulty in identifying each and every individual that is homeless. In Missouri, homelessness increased in each subsequent year between 2007 and 2011—a clear indicator that the problem deserves our attention. Homelessness not only affects a high number of people, but also a wide-range of people. Members of minority groups are at greatest risk of becoming homeless (1 in 128), and the likelihood of a member of a minority group becoming homeless is nearly double that of their risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Our returning veterans are just as susceptible to homelessness, with 1 in every 154 of our former servicemen and women needlessly suffering. I often say that our federal budget is a moral document, one that should reflect that needs of our society, and at a time like this, when unemployment is still over 7%, I am here to fight for those who cannot always fight for themselves.
More on Housing
These last few weeks, I’ve been spending time in the Fifth Congressional District of Missouri, meeting with constituents, and learning about their concerns. Members of Congress are elected to serve the constituents of their districts, and the first step in meeting that obligation is to listen to the issues impacting their daily lives.
(Washington D.C.) – Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II is extremely concerned about the effects that President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget will have on rural Americans and small town citizens.
“This budget is not for rural America and it hurts working families, veterans, and especially low-income families and seniors,” said Congressman Cleaver.
The Popular On-line Booking Site Announces a 90-Day Review of Platform Practices Following Reports of Exclusions of African Americans and other minorities from booking rooms on its website.
On Monday morning, I had the privilege of joining Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03) in a joint press conference in Jefferson City to discuss our bipartisan housing legislation that was recently signed into law by President Obama. This law, H.R. 3700 and Public Law No. 114-201, will reform housing policies in America for the first time in decades. This bipartisan effort has been a long time coming. H.R. 3700 represents the first time in more than 27 years that a bill has unanimously passed both houses of Congress under regular order, and not suspension of the rules.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05) and Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03) will hold a press conference in Jefferson City, Missouri, on their legislation that was recently signed into law by President Obama. The legislation will reform housing policies in America for the first time in decades. This bi-partisan effort has been a long time coming. Their bill, H.R. 3700, represents the first time in more than 27 years that a bill has unanimously passed both houses of Congress under regular order, and not suspension of the rules.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, H.R. 3700, The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, successfully passed through the Senate. This bill, sponsored by Missouri Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver, II and Blaine Luetkemeyer, passed unanimously in the House on February 2, 2016. The bill was later introduced in the Senate by Senator Menendez, Senator Scott, Senator Coons, and Missouri Senator Roy Blunt. It successfully passed on July 14, 2016, and is now on its way to President Barack Obama's desk for signature.
Kansas City – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress shows that one in every ten adults who are experiencing homelessness are veterans.
“The good news is, veteran homelessness is declining, thanks to programs like this one. The Veterans Community Project not only creates homes for our veterans who have already given so much, but it creates hope and a new beginning,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II.
In this world, we only get one life. We can’t erase the things of the past, or bury them in some grave – but the good news is – we can always start anew.
On Monday, I am going to the Veteran Community Project’s dedication of the first tiny house to be placed at the Veterans Village on East 89th Street in Kansas City. This project reminds me of the opportunities that we have to start anew. A four-acre Land Trust parcel is the site for dozens of tiny houses to be built exclusively for veterans who are experiencing homelessness.
If you truly want to see how Congress was designed to work, this past Tuesday’s vote on H.R. 3700, “The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2015” was the vote to watch. It was a true example of what I have written about on several occasions, civility and compromise. This bill is one of the largest sweeping reforms of our nation’s housing program in twenty years and Republicans and Democrats worked together to get it done.
H.R. 3700 passed the House with a unanimous 427 votes to 0. Republicans and Democrats working together: it can be done.