Evaluating the Macro Impact of the Affordable Housing Crisis, Cantwell, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Create Affordable Housing Task Force

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), and a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues introduced the Task Force on the Impact of the Affordable Housing Crisis Act, which seeks to better understand and respond to America’s housing crisis by creating a bipartisan affordable housing task force.

“This year we were able to boost the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which has built 90 percent of affordable housing in our country,” Senator Cantwell said. “More needs to be done to get to the root causes of the affordable housing crisis and show that LIHTC is cost-effective and creates jobs.”

“As I travel throughout Indiana, I consistently hear about the need for more affordable housing,” said Senator Young. “It’s clear that we need a better understanding of this crisis in order to make the policy changes necessary to help families succeed. Our bill would bring together a group of experts to evaluate the affordable housing crisis and identify solutions to help lift up millions of struggling individuals.”

For millions of Americans, a lack of affordable housing has profound, negative, and lasting consequences. Research shows that an inability to access safe and affordable homes jeopardizes educational performance and economic mobility, and leaves families with fewer dollars to spend on health care, groceries, and other important expenses – further trapping families in the cycle of poverty.

In order to solve the housing crisis, we need a better understanding of its impact on other government programs and areas of life. The affordable housing task force will evaluate and quantify the impact of housing costs on other government programs and provide recommendations to Congress about how to increase affordable housing options in order to improve the effectiveness of other federal programs, ranging from education to health care.

From 2005 to 2015, more than 9 million new renters joined the market – the largest increase on record. While a historic number of renters enter into the market, affordable housing options continue to dwindle. Over the next decade, more than a million affordable housing properties will exit the market, including nearly 500,000 LIHTC units. This increased demand and shrinking supply has resulted in a significant deficit of affordable housing. Currently there is a nationwide shortage of 7.2 million affordable rental homes, a significant increase from the 4.4 million gap in 2000, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

In Washington state, the affordable housing crisis is even worse. According to Census data, since 2010, median rents have risen by 19.7 percent – almost 7 percentage points higher than the rest of the country. Currently, almost 50 percent of Washington state renters are cost burdened, spending over 30 percent of their income on rent, and there are only 29 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low income families (defined as a family of 4 making about $26,000 annually).

Cantwell has long prioritized affordable housing in her work in the Senate. In March 2018, Senator Cantwell secured a 12.5% increase in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit over the next four years – the first increase in over a decade. This expansion will allow Washington state to build 20% more LIHTC-financed affordable housing developments in 2018 alone. As part of this effort, Cantwell has worked with more than 2,200 national, state, and local affordable housing advocates – known as the ACTION Campaign – and visited affordable housing developments at events in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, Walla Walla, Longview, Kent, Bremerton, Bellingham, Portland, New York City, and Salt Lake City.

The task force created by today’s legislation would:

  • Evaluate and quantify the impact that a lack of affordable housing has on other areas of life and life outcomes for individuals living in the United States, including education, employment, income level, health, nutrition, access to transportation, and poverty level in the neighborhood in which individuals live.
  • Evaluate and quantify the costs incurred by other federal, state, and local programs due to a lack of affordable housing.
  • Make recommendations to Congress on how to use affordable housing to improve the effectiveness of other federal programs and improve life outcomes for individuals living in the United States.

In addition to Senator Cantwell, the legislation was introduced today by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Angus King (I-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chris Coons (D-DE).