This article was written by Richa Goel, NAHRO’s Legislative Affairs Intern
Housing is a basic necessity, but many Americans struggle to find affordable housing, both in the rental and homeownership markets. On July 13th, The Ways and Means Committee held a hearing about the affordable housing crisis and its impacts on communities across the country.
Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) opened the hearing by discussing the impacts of affordable housing shortages on minority and low-income communities:
“The housing affordability crisis has deepened the already wide racial, wealth, and homeownership gaps. Today’s racial disparities in housing and wealth grow out of a long legacy of discrimination and unequal access.”
Expert witnesses testified in front of the subcommittee, including:
- Dr. Elora Lee Raymond, Urban Planner and Assistant Professor in the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design at Georgia Tech
- Dr. Akilah Watkins, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Community Progress
- Dr. Christopher Herbert, Managing Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University
- Audra Hamernik, President and CEO of Nevada HAND in Las Vegas, NV
- Edward J. Pinto, Senior Fellow and Director of the American Enterprise Institute Housing Center
Raymond emphasized the relationship between institutional investment and increased rents, eviction filings, and poor maintenance. Watkins discussed vacant properties and advocated for passing the National Land Bank Network Act. Herbert asserted that rising home prices and skyrocketing interest rates have made homeownership out of reach for many Americans. Hamernik highlighted the importance of the LIHTC program and other special financing for keeping rents affordable. Pinto largely disagreed with the other panelists, asserting that federal policies and government spending have contributed to the current affordable housing crisis.
Disagreement was clear among Democrats and Republicans about the causes and remedies for the current affordable housing crisis. Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Smith (R-MO) focused on inflation and government spending as major drivers of high housing costs, arguing that more government spending will only worsen the crisis. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) discussed the effectiveness of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and advocated for expanding and improving the LIHTC program to increase the affordable housing supply.
The hearing also covered the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, land banks, and zoning issues. The recorded hearing and witness statements are available on the House Ways and Means website.