WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chair of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. Remarks as prepared are below:
I’d like to start by welcoming our former colleague back to the House, the distinguished gentlewoman from Ohio, Secretary Marcia Fudge. Congratulations on your confirmation and thank you for being here with us in-person today.
Madame Secretary, as you well know, having a place to call home is the bedrock of success. It’s not just where you lay your head at night and where you start your day. It’s where you start your family and begin to plan for the rest of your life.
Ensuring that every American has access to decent housing – to homes that are stable, secure, sanitary, and safe – should be a national priority. Instead it has become a national failure. Millions of struggling Americans are currently live in dilapidated, outdated, and unsafe homes – and nearly 600,000 Americans experience homelessness on any given night in our country.
More than a generation ago, our government invested in safeguards to ensure housing affordability, including public housing. Now, 50 percent of public housing in America is more than 50 years old. And even with these units, waiting lists are tragically long and families are turned away.
The unmet needs go beyond public housing. Even before the pandemic, rent increases were outpacing renters’ real income. In the last two decades, renters’ have seen their income rise less than four percent while their rent rose at least 15 percent. Today, 11 million families pay more than half their income on rent. If you add in rising housing costs, it is not difficult to see how the idea of working hard enough to one day buy a home has become more of a pipedream than the American Dream.
Without federal investments to restore safeguards and address systemic failures, this crisis will only get worse. That is why President Biden’s 2022 budget includes historic investments in America’s housing infrastructure to build and modernize housing across the country, increase sustainability and affordability, and expand opportunities for lower-income families and in previously excluded communities.
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is one of the federal government’s most powerful tools for building and rehabilitating affordable housing, producing an estimated 100,000 affordable rental units per year. The President’s budget invests an additional $55 billion in this proven initiative and pairs it with investments in other successful housing subsidy programs. This includes a $40 billion increase for the Public Housing Fund – to build, maintain, and retrofit more than one million affordable rental housing units across the country.
Increased capacity must also come with a commitment to increased accessibility, sustainability, and safety.
That’s why the President’s budget provides resources to support and sustain homeownership and renting opportunities; To upgrade and build schools and child-care facilities, restore vacant buildings, and reverse the effects of disinvestment in our communities.
It makes investments to remove lead-based paint and address residents’ critical health and safety concerns.
It also includes incentives for zoning reform – to remove exclusionary zoning laws and harmful policies that have not only inflated housing costs but have also segregated communities and often barred low-income families and families of color from high opportunity neighborhoods. It prioritizes the housing needs of communities that have been historically left behind or ignored – like Indian Country and rural America – as well as our Veterans.
These resources will not only transform cities and communities, they will transform lives and fuel our recovery by creating hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs across the country.
I’ve seen it work firsthand. My hometown of Louisville, KY is a national model of the power of federal housing investment. We are home to four highly successful HOPE 6 projects, and, just two weeks ago, we had a grand opening for a 5th project – this one funded through the newer Choice Neighborhood program. I cannot overstate the impact of these federal investments – entire neighborhoods transformed, entire families set-up for success, and new areas of economic growth for our entire city.
That is what can happen when the federal government invests in affordable housing.
Yes, the American Rescue Plan provided emergency rental and homelessness assistance as at-risk families struggled to keep a roof over their head during the pandemic. And while this critical support continues to save households from eviction, ending the pandemic will not end our nation’s housing crisis. That is why we need the historic investments and comprehensive plans outlined in the President’s budget.
Secretary Fudge, I look forward to hearing more about this today and thank you again for being here.
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