Washington, DC - Today a group of congressional leaders – Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayana Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) – announced a bold set of proposals to address homelessness and housing poverty in America called “The People’s Housing Platform.” NLIHC has been glad to work with these members of Congress to shape their proposals.
Our nation’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis is solvable, but only with the political will to invest in proven solutions at the scale necessary. The bold housing proposals announced today by these members of Congress, and others being introduced in the House and Senate by a growing number of bipartisan housing champions, make clear that political will is growing. I commend them for their leadership.
The U.S. is in the grips of a severe and pervasive housing affordability crisis. Nationally, there is a shortage of 7 million homes affordable and available to the lowest-income renters. Fewer than four affordable and available rental homes exist for every ten of the lowest-income renters nationwide. Eleven million renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, paying more than half of their limited incomes on rent. The vast majority of them have extremely low incomes, and most are seniors, people with disabilities, or people in the low-wage labor force.
And let’s be clear - housing justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. Today’s housing crisis does disproportionate harm to Blacks and Latinos. Most severely cost-burdened and deeply poor renters are people of color, the result of decades of discrimination and racist policies.
As housing becomes less affordable to the lowest-income people, homelessness increases in cities across the nation. Today’s modern phenomenon of homelessness—over 500,000 people, including children, sleeping in shelters, tent cities, parking lots of RVs—did not exist decades ago when our country housed almost everyone, including the lowest-income families. In the late 1970s, our country had a modest surplus of affordable homes for the lowest-income people. The primary difference between then and now: federal investments in programs that house low-income renters.
Because of decades of funding cuts and arbitrary budget caps, only one in four families in need of housing assistance gets any - three out of four families eligible for housing assistance are denied help. They add their names to years-, sometimes decades-long, waiting lists, hoping to win our country’s housing lottery where just the lucky 25% get the help they need.
We must build homes affordable to the lowest-income people and provide rental assistance to all those in need, and we must also preserve our country’s existing affordable housing infrastructure. Public housing is home to nearly 1 million families and plays a critical role in providing safe, decent homes to those with the greatest needs. But public housing apartments across the country are deteriorating rapidly – a result of decades of federal disinvestment, of the federal government turning its back on the millions of people who call public housing home.
Today, public housing faces a backlog of capital repairs of as much as $70 billion. This disinvestment means lack of heat or cooling in some public housing homes – in others it means mold, lead hazards, leaky ceilings, and leaking toilets. It means asthma, lead poisoning, sick children, sick seniors, and increased costs to the health care system. Such neglect is unacceptable. Congress must live up to its responsibility to provide safe, decent, accessible and affordable homes - for today’s public housing residents and for future generations.
Inaction is expensive—as a country, we pay to allow homelessness and housing poverty to persist through avoidable health care costs, lost work-productivity, decreased educational attainment, and lowered tax revenue. And the effect housing poverty has on struggling families and communities is severe.
We can end homelessness and housing poverty in America: We have the data, the solutions, the public support and, as a country, we have the resources. We lack only the political will to fund the solutions at the scale necessary, but the will is building and, with champions like those in Congress and beyond, it will only continue to grow. NLIHC stands ready to work with these members of Congress and others to achieve an end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all.
About NLIHC: Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest income in the United States have affordable and decent homes.