Amid Growing Housing Crisis: Merkley, Torres, Warren, Gillibrand, & Congressional Colleagues Push Biden Administration to Include Transformative

Investment in Affordable Housing in Build Back Better Infrastructure Package

Washington, D.C. – Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15) and Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley are leading a bicameral group of 58 lawmakers today in urging the Biden administration to include major investments in affordable housing in the upcoming infrastructure package.

In their letter to President Biden, the lawmakers noted that without affordable housing investments, there is no path for an equitable recovery and long term financial stability for low and middle income American families.

“Without proportional affordable housing investments, there is no path for an equitable recovery and long term financial stability for low and middle income American families,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “Our current low affordable housing inventory is a significant driver of higher housing costs, which in turn strains limited federal rental assistance programs. Despite the clear and urgent need, only one in four households who qualify for housing assistance receives it due to decades of chronic underfunding by Congress. Millions of eligible households are currently stuck on waiting lists – often for several years – hoping for help to come sooner.”

“Eight million of the lowest-income renters pay at least half of their income on rent, leaving them without the resources they need to put food on the table, purchase needed medications, or make ends meet,” they continued.  “Coronavirus and the compounding effects of explosive wildfires and extreme weather events have made the need for affordable housing more clear than ever in both rural and urban communities. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, fifty-four million rural residents lived in areas that had either a severe need or moderately severe need for the production of more affordable rental housing.”

In light of those realities, the lawmakers are asking that the Biden administration include in the upcoming Build Back Better infrastructure package, at minimum, the following key affordable housing infrastructure programs:

  • Guarantee Housing Choice Vouchers for all eligible Americans and convert the funding status from annual appropriations to mandatory spending;
  • $70 billion to address the public housing repair backlog; and
  • $45 billion per year for the National Housing Trust Fund per year, of which $26 billion should be reserved for permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness.

In addition to Merkley and Torres, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in the U.S. Senate, and Representatives Stephen Lynch (D-MA-09), Adam Smith (D-WA-09), Lucy McBath (D-GA-06), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-13), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL-04), Ted W. Lieu (D-CA-33), Dina Titus (D-NV-1), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA-08), Mondaire Jones (D-NY-17), Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12), Adam B. Schiff (D-CA-28), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY-07), Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ-03), David N. Cicilline (D-RI-01), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-G-04), Mark Pocan (D-WI-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-AL), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY-16), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), Judy Chu (D-CA-27), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12), Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL-01), André Carson (D-IN-07), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-09), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA-02), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-05), Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (D-NC-12), Mike Levin (D-CA-49), Cori Bush (D-MO-01), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14), Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), Kathleen M. Rice (D-NY-04), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Daniel T. Kildee (D-MI-05), Stacey Plaskett (D-VI-AL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The full text of the lawmakers’ letter is available here and follows below.

###

We write to highlight the urgent need for substantial affordable housing infrastructure investments as part of the broader effort to repair and modernize our nation’s critical infrastructure systems. Without proportional affordable housing investments, there is no path for an equitable recovery and long term financial stability for low and middle income American families.

If we fail to act now, our nation’s economic growth will continue to be held back by the over 7 million unit deficit in affordable homes. Our current low affordable housing inventory is a significant driver of higher housing costs, which in turn strains limited federal rental assistance programs. Despite the clear and urgent need, only one in four households who qualify for housing assistance receives it due to decades of chronic underfunding by Congress. Millions of eligible households are currently stuck on waiting lists – often for several years – hoping for help to come sooner.

The long wait for help sets families further back year after year. Eight million of the lowest-income renters pay at least half of their income on rent, leaving them without the resources they need to put food on the table, purchase needed medications, or make ends meet.  Coronavirus and the compounding effects of explosive wildfires and extreme weather events have made the need for affordable housing more clear than ever in both rural and urban communities. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, fifty-four million rural residents lived in areas that had either a severe need or moderately severe need for the production of more affordable rental housing.

For these reasons, we urge you to include at a minimum the following key affordable housing infrastructure programs in the Build Back Better infrastructure package.

  • Guarantee Housing Choice Vouchers for all eligible Americans and convert the funding status from annual appropriations to mandatory spending.
  • $70 billion to address the Public Housing repair backlog.
  • $45 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund per year, of which $26 billion should be reserved for permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness.

While these programs and funding levels merit additional emphasis, this list should not be regarded as a complete list of all the ways we all can or should act to lower housing costs for American families. We respectfully encourage you to consider these three principal recommendations as minimum housing investments that will help ensure the broader in the Build Back Better infrastructure package delivers broad and equitable benefits to all Americans.

Sincerely,

Cc: Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi

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