Congress should include resources to address the underlying causes of homelessness and housing instability that also increase the risk of future outbreaks: the severe shortage of rental homes affordable and available to America’s lowest-income households. Extremely low-income renters are the only segment of the population for which there is an absolute shortage of affordable and available homes. Addressing this shortage would have a significant stimulus effect on our economy. Congress should:
- Increase investments in the national Housing Trust Fund. An estimated $45 billion in funding for the national Housing Trust Fund can help address the market failure which has resulted in the severe shortage of rental homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes, including people experiencing homelessness. An independent analysis estimates an investment of $45 billion in the HTF would create more than 231,000 rental homes targeted to people with the greatest needs, creating 928,000 jobs in the process. Funding for the HTF is also a priority in the “Housing is Infrastructure Act,” introduced by House Financial Service Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA).
- Public housing capital funds. Congress has underfunded public housing for decades, resulting in a backlog of capital repair needs of as much as $70 billion. Communities can quickly deploy these funds to make critical infrastructure repairs, such as fixing leaky roofs, replacing outdated heating systems, and remediating mold to improve the health and living conditions of millions of residents, and protect a key piece of America’s affordable rental housing stock. Rep. Waters included $70 billion for public housing repairs in the “Housing is Infrastructure Act.”
- Expand rental assistance. Despite the growing gap between wages and housing costs, only one in four families gets the housing assistance it needs because of chronic underfunding. A major expansion of Housing Choice Vouchers and/or the creation of a targeted renters’ tax credit is needed help families keep more of their incomes for other essentials like food, medicine, education, and transportation.
- Prevent evictions by creating a new emergency assistance fund. To help prevent evictions in the future, Congress should enact legislation to create an emergency assistance fund, like the one proposed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in the bipartisan “Eviction Crisis Act,” to provide short-term financial assistance and housing stabilization services. Providing short-term assistance to stabilize individuals is far less expensive than allowing households to become homeless.
- Expand and reform the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. An expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit should be paired with reforms to allow the program to better reach people with the greatest needs.
For more information, contact NLIHC Vice President of Public Policy, Sarah Saadian at [email protected].