The Washington Post had a front-page story today examining the House’s response to the housing shortage in the Gulf Coast a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina hit, and expands into a look at national housing programs and their advocates. The story starts with a look back:

During the 12 years that Republicans ran the House, their leaders didn’t pay much attention to affordable-housing activists. Despite soaring rents and complaints of a deepening affordability crisis, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told his conference that he didn’t want to see housing bills on the floor.

Now, housing advocates are reportedly excited to have some like-minded Democratic “housers” chairing the committees that would fund a variety of programs:

Over the past two decades, as the population has increased and rents have skyrocketed, the number of federally assisted apartments has not budged. Only 1 in 4 families eligible for subsidies receives them, and half of all “working poor” families spend more than half their income on rent. Despite the rising rate of homeownership, advocates say the price for decent shelter is still the primary obstacle to the American dream, more burdensome than the costs of health insurance, gasoline or taxes.

The story yields an intriguing look at the new political landscape in Washington, where some say things aren’t necessarily following stereotypical party lines. Republican Job Hensarling from Texas said new Speaker Nancy Pelosi has embraced an effort “not to let Democrats act like Democrats.”

And because the advocates aren’t getting an immediate blank check for their programs, there’s been some grumbling among them said Joseph Rich, a housing civil rights advocate, quoted in the story.

But he said that after years of waiting, most advocates understand that they cannot expect instant entree to the promised land.

“We’ve turned a corner,” Rich said. “We’ve been losing ground for years, and we finally have hope.”

KELLY BENNETT

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