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Patrick Leahy: Housing is Not a Political Issue, It's a Moral Issue

In an Op-Ed on, Sen. Patrick Leahy makes the forceful argument that housing should not be a political bargaining chip, but in fact, a basic human right:

Last week President Obama’s chief housing officer, Secretary Julián Castro of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, accepted my invitation to visit Vermont. In his first visit to the Green Mountain State since he took office in 2014, he remarked how surprised he was “to see so much green.” In fact our uniquely rural nature is why I had invited him to our state and why I had gathered a panel of Vermont’s housing partners and homelessness advocates to discuss the array of successes and challenges of achieving affordable housing in our state and rural America. Vermont is a state where affordable housing is not a slogan, but a real priority. Vermont’s rural nature means that for many the greatest challenge is isolation. Housing costs continue to rise, and for years Vermont has maintained a 1 percent vacancy rate. Our rural communities remain challenged with meeting the complex needs of our most vulnerable citizens, but we continue to make significant gains. For instance, with the help of federal HUD investments, Vermont saw a 25 percent decrease in chronic homelessness last year. This is an impressive achievement, and a result of ingenuity and collaboration at every level. Yet even with these gains, we will not be able to meet our goals of eradicating homelessness – just as we will not overcome inequality, advance education or build a stronger economy – unless we invest in housing.

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