Senate Budget Committee Holds Hearing on Expanding Housing Affordability

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget held a hearing, “A Blueprint for Prosperity: Expanding Housing Affordability,” on January 31. Witnesses included Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing and income security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); Carol Ventura, executive director of RIHousing; Kevin Boyce, commissioner of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners; Bill Slover, principal of AVCO Interests, LLC; and Todd Walker, Walter Professor of Financial Economics at Indiana University. The hearing aimed to assess the current state of affordable housing, identify challenges, and explore potential legislative solutions to address the housing crisis affecting low-income households.

Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) opened the hearing by explaining that the country’s housing affordability problem is the result of a market failure that has persisted for decades. He emphasized the significant shortage of affordable housing, the severe housing cost burdens faced by renters, and the negative impacts of the crisis on the American economy. Chairman Whitehouse noted that the affordable housing crisis impacts every community across the country, adding that “helping families have a safe, stable place to call home should not be controversial.” He discussed actions taken by the Biden-Harris administration, including investments provided through the “American Rescue Plan Act” (ARPA) and the Housing Supply Action Plan, and he highlighted several legislative opportunities to address the housing crisis, including the NLIHC-endorsed “Fair Housing Improvement Act” (S.1267/H.R.2846).

Witnesses spoke about the importance of building more affordable housing to reduce homelessness and improve economic development. CBPP’s Peggy Bailey emphasized that the housing affordability crisis is most acute for people with the lowest incomes and highlighted the critical role that housing vouchers play in reducing homelessness and housing instability. Ms. Bailey called on Congress to expand rental assistance to reach all families who need it, increase the supply of affordable housing, preserve existing affordable housing, and invest in fair housing solutions and tenant protections.

RIHousing’s Carol Ventura discussed Rhode Island’s critical housing shortage, which has contributed to increased housing instability and homelessness. She described how historic federal investments enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic played an essential role in helping address housing affordability challenges, noting that federal emergency rental assistance helped keep over 34,000 Rhode Island households in their homes. Ms. Ventura urged Congress to increase federal appropriations for key affordable housing programs and pass the NLIHC-endorsed “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act” (S.1557/H.R.3238).

Several committee members expressed their gratitude for holding a hearing on affordable housing and asked witnesses about other policies to address the crisis. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) discussed his “Housing for All Act” (S.2701/H.R.5254), an NLIHC-endorsed bill, and asked about innovative solutions the federal government could enact to prevent housing instability and homelessness. Ms. Bailey responded that the success of ARPA’s Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV) program shows that providing additional resources and flexibilities can help communities house people facing the greatest barriers to stable housing.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) highlighted the bipartisan “Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act” (S.1257/H.R.3776), which would create 250,000 new housing vouchers and mobility services to help low-income families move to communities of their choice. In response to a question from Senator Van Hollen about the importance of housing vouchers and wraparound services for families with young children, Ms. Bailey stated that there is a cost to inaction. She pointed to research demonstrating how access to safe, affordable housing results in better educational and health outcomes, housing stability, and economic mobility.

Read witnesses’ testimonies and watch the hearing at: