Earlier this year, Congress considered making major investments in housing through the reconciliation process and the Build Back Better Act. But this process was inherently partisan and the Act’s housing provisions failed to make it over the legislative finish line.
Of course, the housing affordability crisis has not gone away. Millions of households still pay unsustainable rents, often in excess of 50 percent of monthly incomes. Millions of others can’t afford to buy their first home. The homeless population has swelled, with nearly 600,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given day.
At BPC’s Terwilliger Center for Housing Policy, we believe that creating a comprehensive, effective, and durable response to the crisis can only occur through bipartisan cooperation. So, working with our partner BPC Action, we have developed a legislative plan, the American Housing Act of 2023, that builds on the best ideas from Democrats and Republicans.
The first section of our proposal offers several initiatives to increase much-needed housing supply, including strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and enacting the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act to create a new tax credit that would incentivize private investment in the construction and rehab of houses for sale in distressed communities. Together, these steps would financially support more than 2.5 million homes over the next ten years.
The second section focuses on preserving our existing affordable housing stock. For example, we propose that new homes financed through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit stay affordable permanently, rather than have rent restrictions that expire after 30 years.
The third and final section outlines a series of “demand-side” initiatives that can help families afford and access housing and reduce homelessness. One of these proposals, based on legislation introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Young (R-IN), would fund 500,000 new housing vouchers to help families with young children move to high-opportunity neighborhoods.
Just about every idea we have put forward has some measure of bipartisan support. If enacted in its entirety, the legislation would appreciably improve the lives of millions of Americans.
The housing affordability crisis does not discriminate on the basis of geography or party affiliation. It’s impacting our big cities, rural America, and the suburbs, while disrupting the lives of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
We know this because the Terwilliger Center just commissioned a survey of 2,200 adults by Morning Consult. More than half of those polled—54 percent—said they had experienced an increase in their rent, mortgage, or utility payments over the past 12 months.
The survey also found that large majorities from both political parties believe that growing homelessness and high housing costs contributing to inflation were important for the federal government to address. Importantly, a strong majority of adults, 71 percent, indicated that passing bipartisan legislation to grow the supply of homes and improve housing affordability should be a congressional priority.
Regardless of the upcoming election results, come January, the new 118th Congress should make housing affordability a front-burner concern. In our view, the proposed American Housing Act gives lawmakers a comprehensive, politically feasible way forward.