Legislative Package Aims to Expand Affordable Housing and Solve Homelessness

Rep. Maxine Waters introduces package to expand affordable housing and solve homelessness

Credit Image: © Rod Lamkey/CNP via ZUMA Press Wire

Rep. Maxine Waters Introduces Three Bills to Maximize Affordable Housing

Advocates are applauding a legislative package introduced by California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters in late June that seeks to spend $150 billion to increase the supply of affordable housing and address homelessness by overhauling the Housing Choice Voucher program.

The package includes three bills: The Housing Crisis Response Act of 2023, The Ending Homelessness Act, and The Down Payment Toward Equity Act, which addresses the racial wealth and homeownership gap by providing $100 billion toward down payment assistance programs. 

It was introduced as the latest federal one-night count showed a nationwide increase in unsheltered homelessness as well as rates of homelessness experienced by families with children.

“Together, these bills represent the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in U.S. history and comes at a time when our nation’s housing and homelessness crisis has reached its worst state,” Waters said.

The U.S. housing market has become increasingly unaffordable for the nation’s lowest-income workers since the pandemic began in March 2020. Since then, single-family home prices have increased by about 40%, and the median rents for one and two-bedroom apartments have followed close behind.

According to the Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey, these rapidly rising housing costs have put about 3.1 million Americans at risk of losing their home because of eviction or foreclosure.

At the same time, wages have not kept pace with either inflation or the nation’s rising home costs.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2023 Out Of Reach report, more than 60% of workers earn less than what’s necessary to afford rent for a two-bedroom apartment, and nearly half can’t afford a one-bedroom apartment.

One way to address these issues is to increase the supply of affordable housing so that more renters can avoid paying more than 30% of their income on rent or utilities. To that end, The Housing Crisis Response Act of 2023 seeks to spend more than $150 billion to add more than 1.4 million affordable homes. It would also include provisions that promote more city planning and development processes that increase the local supply of affordable housing.

However, keeping people in their homes is just part of the battle to end homelessness. The other half is to get unhoused folks into safe and stable housing.

Another of Waters’ bills, The Ending Homelessness Act, would dramatically expand the Housing Choice Voucher program. This is one of the most common ways for people to escape homelessness. The expansion would make the program an entitlement instead of a discretionary funding program. This move would guarantee that all Americans who qualify for the program can receive benefits.

The HCV program would also receive a more than $24 billion boost in funding from the Housing Crisis Response Act. If passed, that would represent one of the most significant one-time increases to the program since it was created in 1974.

Then, there are still barriers to housing that need to be addressed to prevent future increases in rates of homelessness.

The third bill, The Down Payment Toward Equity Act, is designed to spend $100 billion to help first-generation homebuyers afford the down payment for their first home. Funds can also cover closing costs and help buy down mortgage interest rates.

Advocates like National Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Donald Whitehead say the bills have his organization’s “full support” because they will provide “critical support to individuals and families struggling to secure stable housing.”

“We are so grateful to Congresswoman Waters for her unwavering commitment to ending homelessness in America,” Whitehead told Invisible People in a statement.

The Greenlining Institute, an economic equity nonprofit advocacy group, also described the legislative package as one that could create “a stronger, more equitable financial system and a housing market where everyone has the right to a safe, stable, and affordable home.”

How You Can Help

Now is not the time to be silent about homelessness in California or anywhere else. Unhoused people deserve safe and sanitary housing just as much as those who can afford rent or mortgage.

Poverty and homelessness are both policy choices, not personal failures. That’s why we need you to contact your officials and tell them you support legislation that:

  • Streamlines the development of affordable housing
  • Reduces barriers for people experiencing homelessness to enter permanent housing
  • Bolsters government response to homelessness

Together, we can solve homelessness.

Robert Davis

Robert Davis

Robert is a freelance journalist based in Colorado who covers housing, police, and local government.

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