Senate Banking Committee Holds “The State of Housing in America” Hearing

On Tues., March 16th, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a virtual hearing called “Home = Life: The State of Housing in America”. The hearing covered a wide variety of housing topics, including affordable housing, housing finance, and access to homeownership.

Chairman Brown (D-OH) noted that it had been nine years since the committee held a hearing on housing for all Americans, especially, “homeowners looking to buy a lower cost home, seniors on a fixed income, and renters working a minimum wage job.”  

Five witnesses spoke about the areas of housing within their expertise. Dr. Chris Herbert from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies explained how the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can work together to address major housing issues. Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) outlined the housing needs of extremely low-income households. She urged the committee to support the “Public Housing Emergency Response Act,” which would authorize $70 billion for the public housing capital needs backlog.

The remaining three witnesses covered affordable homeownership and housing finance. They included Nikitra Bailey from the Center for Responsible Lending, Edward J. Pinto from the AEI Housing Center, and Ed DeMarco from the Housing Policy Council.

After presenting their testimonies, each witness answered questions from committee Senators. Senator Ossoff (D-GA) asked about the best way to distribute emergency Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) in response to COVID-19. Ranking Member Toomey (R-PA) spoke to the last two witnesses about housing market reform, including changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator Smith (D-MN), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, asked Dr. Herbert about increasing the stock of affordable housing in rural communities.

Senator Warren (D-MA) discussed public housing with Diane Yentel, stating, “through decades of underinvestment and unnecessary restrictions, Congress has helped create this crisis – that means that Congress can help fix it by making serious investments in increasing the supply of affordable housing and expanding public housing for the first time in decades.”  

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will consider several pieces of housing-related legislation in the upcoming months.