As our nation approaches the November midterm elections, New Yorkers should be thinking about affordable housing as they head to the polls.
In addition to ongoing advocacy at the state and local level, there are several important pieces of federal legislation that are currently being considered in Washington whose fate may be decided by our next Congress.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts recently introduced the most comprehensive plan with legislation known as the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act.
Designed to tackle the housing crisis on several fronts, the bill aims to boost the nationwide production of affordable housing and alleviate the rent burden for residents across the country.
Warren’s legislation would allocate $50 billion per year to federal programs to subsidize housing construction in rural, suburban and urban communities. The bill also seeks to challenge the zoning laws that limit low-income residents from moving into affluent neighborhoods by using a competitive block-grant program, with funds that can only be accessed if these communities review and rectify their zoning laws.
This plan, if passed and implemented, would play an important role in creating more mixed-income neighborhoods in New York and throughout the nation. Creating and sustaining mixed-income neighborhoods is always a win-win for local communities, especially for the low-income families who are able to move into areas that provide greater educational and economic opportunities.
Warren’s ambitious bill also seeks to address racial inequities by restructuring the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and creating a down-payment assistance program for homebuyers. Economists estimate that the bill would help build three million homes and on a much shorter timeline than other successful federal housing programs.
Other prominent members of Congress have also introduced ambitious pieces of legislation to solve the housing crisis. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced bills this year to give tax relief to renters, similar to that of the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners.
Booker’s bill includes recommendations to stimulate affordable housing construction with a laundry list of zoning plans and rent regulations, while Harris’s bill places a greater emphasis on addressing homelessness.
In addition to these proposals, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have been working to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program since 2016.
While Congress was able to expand LIHTC by 12.5 percent for the next four years in this spring’s omnibus spending bill, which was the first expansion of the program in a decade, Senator Cantwell has said this crisis requires a far more aggressive response.
The housing crisis has created an impetus for politicians to produce new and innovative ways to increase our affordable housing supply.
These are important discussions that we need to be having in New York and across the country if we are going to create and enact the solutions that Americans deserve.