The “Rent Relief Act of 2017,” legislation announced today by U.S. Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY), would provide much-needed resources directly to struggling families and individuals to help them afford to keep a roof over their heads. The refundable tax credit would put more money in the pockets of the lowest income families, at a time when their wages have flatlined and housing costs have skyrocketed. Millions of families – including those with the greatest needs – would no longer be forced to make impossible choices between paying for rent and covering other basic needs like food and healthcare.
The lack of affordable housing in the U.S. has reached crisis proportions. The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Housing, a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), shows there is a shortage of 7.4 million affordable and available rental homes for America’s 11.4 million extremely low-income (ELI) households, those with incomes less than the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income. These households include seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and families with children. Only 35 affordable homes are available for every 100 ELI renter households nationally, and a shortage exists in every state and major metropolitan area in the country. Seventy-one percent of ELI renter households spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities. These families are at high risk of eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness.
Despite the clear need, federal housing investments for the lowest income people have been chronically underfunded. Three out of four families eligible for federal housing assistance are turned away due to a lack of funding.
By ensuring that the lowest income people have an affordable place to call home, a new tax credit for renters – like the one proposed by Representative Crowley – could transform millions of lives, giving struggling families the stability they need to achieve economic mobility, improve their health, and allow children to do better in school. I applaud Representative Crowley for his leadership on this innovative, bold proposal.
Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.