According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, the American housing crisis is worsening. There is a shortage of over seven million affordable housing units, and half of the renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 

On December 11th, Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act to the House. The bill is slated to create three million new housing units, improve access to affordable housing through anti-discrimination laws, and invest in families living in historically redlined communities. Early analysis indicated that this bill would create 1.5 million new jobs and bring down rent, on average, 10 percent.  

“The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act confronts the shameful history of government-backed housing discrimination and is designed to benefit those families that have been denied opportunities to build wealth because of the color of their skin,” Sen. Warren said at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act will:

  • Increase federal funding to build or rehabilitate 3.2 million new housing units for lower-income and middle-class families and bring down rents by 10% in urban, suburban and rural areas.

  • Put $10 billion into a new competitive grant program that communities can use to build infrastructure, parks, roads, or schools - as long as local governments reform land use rules that make construction of new affordable housing needlessly more expensive.

  •  Provide down payment grants to first-time homebuyers living in lower-income, formerly redlined or officially segregated areas to allow those families to start building home equity and close the racial wealth gap.

  •  Invest $2 billion to support borrowers whose wealth was destroyed in the 2008 financial crisis and who still have negative equity on their mortgages.

  •  Expand the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and source of income, including government assistance.

  • Strengthen the Community Reinvestment Act to cover more financial institutions, promote investment in activities that help poor and middle-class communities, and strengthen sanctions against institutions that fail to follow the rules.

  • Make it easier to use housing vouchers in neighborhoods with good schools and good jobs and allows tribal housing authorities to administer their own vouchers programs.

  • If the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act gain momentum, it would be a massive step forward in the fight for fair housing. It would strengthen the fair housing act, banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity and source of income. 

  • At this moment, there is no indication of immediate movement however with Democrats taking the house majority in 2019; this bill has a better chance of moving forward and potentially going up for a vote in the House than the Senate. The bill is also co-sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). 

This entire bill is paid for by the restoration of the estate tax on the wealthiest families which was instituted under the George W. Bush administration and will institute more progressive rates above those thresholds. “These [tax] changes will affect only about 10,000 of the wealthiest families in the country,” states Senator Warren’s press release on the bill.

Jay YoungComment