Meeting Basic Human Needs
LWV US position

Statement of Position on Meeting Basic Human Needs, as Revised by the National Board, January 1989, based on positions reached from 1971 through 1988.

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that one of the goals of social policy in the United States should be to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families and that the most effective social programs are those designed to prevent or reduce poverty.

Persons who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate or for whom jobs are not available have the right to an income and/or services sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter and access to health care.

The federal government should set minimum, uniform standards and guidelines for social welfare programs and should bear primary responsibility for financing programs designed to help meet the basic needs of individuals and families. State and local governments, as well as the private sector, should have a secondary role in financing food, housing and health care programs. Income assistance programs should be financed primarily by the federal government with state governments assuming secondary responsibility.

Housing Supply
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the League worked for a number of federal housing programs. In 1974, League support was channeled into aspects of the Housing and Community Development Act, which consolidated federal assistance under a block grant approach. The League fought against congressional action to weaken the Community Development Block Grant program by making drastic cuts in the full range of authorized low- and moderate-income subsidies for both rehabilitation and new housing.

Throughout the 1980s, the League continued to support increased funding to add to and maintain the existing stock of federally assisted housing for very low-income persons. LWVUS efforts included working as a member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition to urge passage of 1987 legislation authorizing the low-income housing and community development programs of HUD, as well as endorsing the 1989 "Housing Now" march on Washington.

As a member of the Low Income Housing Coalition's Women and Housing Task Force, the LWVUS endorsed a 1988 memorandum to the incoming Bush administration highlighting the dimensions of the housing problems facing women and making specific recommendations. In March 1990, the League endorsed a similar set of recommendations to Congress by the Women and Housing Task Force, predicated on the conviction that every person and family should have decent, safe and affordable housing. State and local Leagues also work to increase the supply of low- and moderate-income housing. Their actions have included efforts to change zoning laws and to set up shared housing services, which are particularly helpful for single parents.

Criteria for Housing Supply
The following considerations can be applied to programs and policies to provide a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family:

  • The responsibility for achieving national housing goals rests primarily with the federal government, which should:
       a) assure that our economic system is functioning to produce and maintain sufficient decent housing for citizens at all income levels;
    b) compensate for any failure or inadequacy of the system by building, financing, renting and selling homes to those citizens whose housing needs are not being met;
    c) give a variety of incentives to local jurisdictions to encourage them to provide within their boundaries an adequate supply of decent housing for low- and moderate-income groups;
    d) withhold federal funds from communities that fail to encourage such housing.
  • State and local governments should assist by establishing effective agencies to aid, promote, coordinate and supplement the housing programs of the federal government and the private sector.
  • Government at all levels must make available sufficient funds for housing-assistance programs.
  • When families or individuals cannot afford decent housing, government should provide assistance in the form of income and/or subsidized housing.
  • Government programs providing subsidies to the building, financing and insuring industries for housing for lower-income families should be evaluated in terms of units produced rather than in terms of benefits accruing to these industries.
  • Government at all levels should develop policies that will assure sufficient land at reasonable cost on which to develop housing and that will assure fulfillment of other goals such as access to employment, preservation of open space, environmental cleanliness and beauty, and other aspects of a suitable living environment.
  • Regional and metropolitan planning should be promoted to prevent haphazard urban growth, and housing for low- and moderate-income families should be provided as a part of all planned neighborhoods or communities.
  • Lower-income families should not be segregated in large developments or neighborhoods. As their economic status improves, lower-income families should be enabled to continue to live in the same units as private tenants or as homeowners, if they are so inclined.
  • Housing should be designed to meet human needs and should be built with amenities that will encourage economic integration within apartment buildings as well as within neighborhoods.
  • Publicly assisted housing should be included in viable, balanced communities, with provision for quality public services and facilities, including schools, transportation, recreation, etc., that will encourage integration and stability.
  • Zoning practices and procedures that will counteract racial and economic isolation should be promoted.
  • State and local governments should adopt and enforce:
    a) uniform building codes with standards based on performance;
    b) housing codes to protect the health and safety of all citizens.
  • State and local tax structures should be examined and revised to:
    a) benefit communities that build housing for lower-income families;
    b) encourage private owners to improve their homes;
    c) reduce speculative land costs.
  • Government, industry and labor should encourage innovative building techniques to reduce the cost of housing production.
  • Rights of tenants to negotiate for proper maintenance, management of facilities and services should be protected.
  • Housing programs should be administered by individuals trained for the jobs and sympathetic with the needs of their clientele.
  • Citizen groups should participate in the development of publicly assisted housing programs by:
    a) evaluating performance;
    b) activating nonprofit sponsorships;
    c) supporting legislation;
    d) developing public awareness of housing discrimination and need.

Housing - RI Background
From the LWV RI Voter, February 2004

After reading article after article detailing the affordable housing shortage, dire warnings about average citizens being priced out the market, sad stories about families living in shelters for the homeless, and citizen outrage at being forced to allow building that is not consistent with their existing communities, one has to admit - Rhode Island has a housing problem. The numbers are inescapable, but why is there widespread opposition to the affordable housing bill that was passed by the legislature last year? Why isn't what we have done in the past enough for low income families now? Are we all such snobs, that we don't want "poor people" among us?

Read complete article

The Economic Impact of the Housing Crisis on Businesses in Rhode Island - RIPEC

Report - Housing Forum April 19
West Bay LWV Sentinel 2005

Rhode Island housing holds three dubious national distinctions, explained Amy Rainone, Policy Director for the RI's Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation (RIHMFC), the agency charged with housing RI's low and moderate-income families. Housing prices may be higher elsewhere but have risen here at the highest rate in the U.S.; meanwhile, our rates of vacancies and of new unit construction per capita are lowest.

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Guide to Government Programs

Links to Housing Resources

Websites for Rhode Island agencies & organizations involved in Housing:

To identify your Rhode Island elected officials:

National agencies & organizations:

Websites for planning and affordable housing design:

Revised: 04/07/09


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