NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel testified on September 16 before the Senate Budget Committee’s roundtable on Examining Federal Housing Assistance Programs. In her testimony, Diane addressed the need for deeply affordable housing, the declining federal resources, how COVID-19 exacerbated the housing crisis and created an acute eviction crisis, how investments can alleviate the underlying affordable housing crisis, the need for increased federal investments in affordable housing, and the duplication and consolidation of federal housing programs.
Diane discussed how the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately impacts communities of color, causes many tenants to spend over 30% of their income on rent and forgo other necessities, like nutritious food or medical care. She also explained how the housing crisis is being exacerbated by the drastic increase in rent and comparably low increase wages.
The COVID-19 economic recession has only exacerbated the housing crisis. Federal, state, and local eviction moratoriums provided important protections for some renters, but they are expiring rapidly and there will be a tsunami of evictions once they end. Diane urged Congress to enact legislation that includes NLIHC top priorities: a national, uniform moratorium on all evictions for nonpayment of rent; at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance through the "Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act” and housing vouchers; and $11.5 billion to help prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness.
In order to end homelessness and poverty, Diane urged Congress to significantly expand investments in affordable housing for America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households. NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign has identified three long-term policy strategies for Congress: dramatically expanding rental assistance, significantly expanding the supply of housing affordable to the lowest-income renters and providing resources to preserve existing affordable housing stock, and creating a new national program that provides temporary financial assistance to help cover rent for households experiencing unexpected economic shocks.
Diane noted that investing in affordable housing solutions, like the national Housing Trust Fund, rental assistance, public housing, and rural and tribal housing, improves lives and saves the federal government money. Housing is linked to higher educational achievement, improved health outcomes, racial equity, economic mobility and productivity, decreased food insecurity, improved outcomes for reintegration after incarceration, and decreased rates of veteran homelessness.
When Chairman Mike Enzi asked about the consolidation of federal programs, Diane responded that “scarce federal resources should be targeted towards those with the greatest needs. When it comes to housing, it is very clear the greatest needs exist among the lowest-income people – extremely low-income people and people experiencing homelessness. So, the more we can realign federal housing programs to meet the needs of those low-income renters, the better the federal dollars will be used.” Diane cited the mortgage interest deduction, three-quarters of which helped higher-income people become homeowners, as an example of poor alignment.
Read Diane Yentel’s testimony here.
Watch a recording of the committee’s roundtable here.