Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, delivered the following remarks on the urgent housing crisis during the Democratic Issues Conference 2024.
Good afternoon, everyone. As we come together during this year’s Democratic Issues Conference, Committee Democrats are here today to sound the alarm on our nation’s worsening affordable housing and homelessness crisis.
Nationwide, there is a shortage of 14 million homes for rent or purchase, creating mounting affordability pressures. As a result, a record number of renters and homeowners are paying a greater share of their income on housing than ever before. Meanwhile, over 650,000 people are experiencing homelessness on any given night in the U.S. as millions more are just one crisis away from becoming homeless themselves.
Let’s be very clear, it doesn’t have to be this way. Unfortunately, for far too long Federal spending on housing has lagged behind growing need among families. In fact, since 2019, the federal government has spent less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget on housing. This is absolutely unacceptable.
The good news is, Democrats care about housing. That’s why when I was Chair of the House Financial Services Committee last Congress, we worked closely with President Biden to draft the housing title of the Build Back Better Act that would have invested over $150 billion in fair an affordable housing. While House Democrats passed the bill in short order, the Senate unfortunately did not, and housing investments were stripped from what became the Inflation Reduction Act that passed last year.
So yes, we are disappointed that housing has continually been left on the cutting room floor, but this President and Committee Democrats have not given up and are going to finishing the job when it comes to affordable housing! While extreme MAGA Republicans continue their efforts to defund federal housing programs and seem to be more concerned with kissing up to the twice-impeached, four-times criminally-indicted former President Trump than they are with HOUSING their own communities where homelessness is increasing. While Trump made very clear during his tenure that he wants to round up and arrest people simply because they’re homeless, Democrats continue to offer effective and humane solutions. This Congress, I proudly reintroduced with many of my colleagues here today a massive legislative package that would represent the single largest and most comprehensive investment in fair and affordable housing in U.S. history. This includes:
The “Housing Crisis Response Act,” which represents the housing investments that were previously included in Build Back Better Act, would invest more than $150 billion in fair and affordable housing investments to create nearly 1.4 million affordable and accessible homes, reduce housing costs for all, and help address stubborn core inflation.
The “Ending Homelessness Act,” which would end homelessness and significantly reduce poverty by transforming the Housing Choice Voucher program into a federal entitlement, so that every household who qualifies for assistance receives it; and
The “Downpayment Toward Equity Act,” which would help revive the dream of homeownership for all by providing $100 billion in direct assistance to help first-time, first-generation homebuyers cover downpayments, closing costs, and buydown mortgage interest rates.
Vice President Harris indicated very clearly yesterday that housing IS the top priority, and as America inches closer to November, Democrats are making sure housing is treated as such. Right now, the housing crisis is having major effects on our nation’s economy. Based on the latest inflation data, housing costs make up nearly 70% of stubborn core inflation. Families across the country need to know that we are fighting every day to solve this urgent crisis and build on the economic progress Democrats have made under the Biden Administration.
In addition to historic legislation, as Ranking Member, I am announcing today that I will be launching a new initiative to work alongside Democratic Members in the House and local officials to lower the cost of development and reduce other local barriers to fair and affordable housing. This includes working with communities to improve building codes, streamline permitting processes, and eliminate restrictive zoning and other policies that only benefit those, such as NIMBYs, who seek to block housing progress. We know that there are evidence-based solutions to end this crisis, and we’ve seen some communities put those solutions into action. For example, the City of Houston has adopted the Housing First Model to end homelessness by launching highly effective street outreach teams to get people into permanent supportive housing, which has resulted in a 63 percent reduction in homelessness since 2011. That’s more than any of the other 10 largest cities in the U.S. and not only that, but it is more humane and effective than costly strategies that seek to criminalize people experiencing homelessness.
So, with that, I call on my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to join me and my fellow Committee Democrats to get my legislative housing package across the finish line and make safe, fair, and affordable housing a reality for all.