Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recently introduced a proposal that could potentially ease America’s ongoing affordable housing crisis.
The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which Warren introduced at the end of September, aims to provide $470 billion for affordable housing trust funds and expand the variety of financial institutions subject to Community Reinvestment Act requirements.
Warren explained that housing is the biggest expense for most working families and costs are skyrocketing.
“…My bill would cut rents by 10% and give families in urban, rural, and suburban communities more economic security," Warren said. "This proposal will attack the rising cost of housing by helping to roll back needlessly restrictive local zoning rules and taking down other barriers that keep American families from living in neighborhoods with good jobs and good schools."
Warren said after bungling housing policy for decades, it's time for Congress to make things right and pass her bill.
If passed, 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.
The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association said they welcomes the legislation, but believes funding for the act could make it difficult for family-owned businesses to transition to the next generation.
According to the organization, Warren intends to finance the act by decreasing estate tax exemption levels and placing an additional surtax on estates exceeding $1 billion.
“NLBMDA appreciates the effort by Senator Warren to highlight the issue of housing affordability,” NLBMDA President and CEO Jonathan Paine said. “However, NLBMDA disagrees with Senator Warren financing her proposal by reducing the estate tax exemption.”
Despite NLBMA's reservations, the National Low Income Housing Coalition believes the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act displays Warren’s commitment to helping American families.
“The proposal expands investments in proven solutions—like the National Housing Trust Fund—at the scale necessary to help millions of the lowest income families who today face impossible choices between paying rent and putting food on the table, buying medication, or saving for a rainy day," NLHC President and CEO Diane Yentel said. "Congress should quickly enact this ambitious bill to help end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all.”