Representative Ellison’s “Dear Colleague” Letter on Ending Family Homelessness

Drawing attention to the hundreds of thousands of homeless families in the U.S., Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) has circulated a new “Dear Colleague” letter asking Members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor his “Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2015” (H.R. 1662). The bill would modify the mortgage interest deduction (MID) and invest the resulting savings into affordable rental housing for people with low incomes, including individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Sixty percent of the savings would go into the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF).

Mr. Ellison writes, “We need a robust strategy to address the affordable housing crisis in this country. On a given night, 560,000 people are homeless; almost half are families. In any given year, there are more than 1.3 million homeless children, up from 679,724 before the Financial Crisis. Homelessness is due to appalling levels of unaffordable rents: One in two households pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent and one in four households pay more than 50 percent of their gross income on rent. Nowhere in the United States can someone work 40 hours a week at minimum wage and afford a one bedroom apartment at a fair market rent. While the Administration has made progress at ending homelessness for veterans, family homelessness remains a problem. Currently, only one in four families that qualify for rental housing assistance actually receives any benefit.”

Mr. Ellison’s bill incorporates the key components of the NLIHC-led United for Homes campaign, which proposes to modify the current MID by reducing the portion of a mortgage for which homeowners can claim a tax break from the current $1 million to $500,000 (just 5% of mortgages originated nationwide from 2012 to 2014 were over $500,000, and people with mortgages over $500,000 would still receive a tax break on the first $500,000 of their mortgage) and by converting the deduction to a 15% non-refundable tax credit. Phased in over five years, these two changes would create more than $200 billion in revenue over ten years for affordable housing without adding a penny to the federal deficit. The changes would also extend mortgage interest tax benefits to millions more households, the great majority of whom have incomes below $100,000.

Over 2,300 national, state, and local organizations have joined the United for Homes campaign. To join the campaign, go to

Funding the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised by modifying the MID is a top NLIHC policy priority. NLIHC calls on all advocates to urge their Representatives to cosponsor the bill.

Read the Dear Colleague letter at:

More information about MID reform is at and on page 3-19 of NLIHC’s 2015 Advocates’ Guide,