Housing is a significant part of economic wellbeing for most American families. The House Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth held a March 1 hearing on “Affordable Housing and Economic Mobility.” Chairman Jim Himes (D-CT) and Ranking Member Bryan Steil (R-WI) opened with remarks on affordable housing construction, inclusive zoning, and homeownership. On the purpose of the hearing, Chairman Himes said,
“We will examine the critical role that stable and affordable housing plays in creating paths to economic prosperity and giving every American the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
Following the opening statements, five expert witnesses testified before the committee, including:
- Shaun Donovan, Former US Secretary of HUD
- Nikitra Bailey, SVP of Public Policy, National Fair Housing Alliance
- Jacqueline Waggoner, President of Solutions Division, Enterprise Community Partners
- Kevin J Nowak, Executive Director, CHN Housing Partners
- Dr. Salim Furth, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Bailey and Waggoner both discussed the history of inequity in housing policies. Former Secretary Donovan proposed three pathways to promote prosperity through housing: increase investments in rental assistance and construction programs, expand homeownership, and invest in improving disadvantaged neighborhoods. Nowak spoke about the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) as one of the best tools developers have for creating more affordable housing. Finally, Dr. Furth testified about the regional differences in housing markets and affordability.
Disagreement was clear among committee members about whether subsidies are helpful or harmful in addressing the affordable housing crisis. Ranking Member Steil (R-WI), Rep. Davidson (R-OH), and Rep. Arrington (R-TX) argued that subsidies only drive up costs within the housing market, making rents even more expensive. In place of subsidies, they argued for an increase in housing supply through reduced regulations and fewer taxes in the construction supply chain.
In contrast, Chairman Himes (D-CT), Rep. Jayapal (D-WA), and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) talked about the benefits of housing subsidies for those in their communities who struggle to afford housing. Rep. Jayapal said in Seattle there are people working full time at $15 per hour who still cannot afford a home. In response to a member’s question, Bailey pointed out that, in addition to rental assistance subsidies, many Americans benefit from homeownership subsidies that make it financially feasible for them to own homes.
The hearing also covered homelessness, source of income discrimination, zoning restrictions, Housing Choice Vouchers, the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), and credit scoring. The recorded hearing and all witness statements are available on the Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth’s website.