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Waters on Prioritizing Robust Housing Investments in the Build Back Better Act: Housing Isn’t a “Nice-to-Have,” It Is Foundational

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “A Strong Foundation: How Investing is the Key to Building Back a Better America.”

Right now, choices are being made about what investments will be cut back or cut out of the Build Back Better Act.

Last month, this Committee passed historic legislation to invest $327 billion in long overdue housing investments. These funds would create or rehabilitate more than three million affordable homes; provide up to 750,000 Housing Choice Vouchers to house up to 1.7 million people; and help close the racial wealth gap through a $10 billion investment in downpayment assistance to first-time, first-generation homebuyers.

The housing investments provided in the Build Back Better Act should be robust and reflect the fact that housing is infrastructure. Absent access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing, far too many families cannot make ends meet in a way that enables them, our economy, and our nation to thrive.

As our two panels of witnesses will discuss today, there is no way to build back better without investing in housing. Our first panel consists of experts with lived experience who have struggled to afford, find, or secure housing. These witnesses will talk about their experiences with homelessness, public housing, and achieving the dream of homeownership.

Our second panel of policy experts will discuss how robust investments in housing will promote positive health outcomes, mitigate climate change, strengthen the middle class, address longstanding racial inequities, and give children the foundation they need to perform well in school.

Every day, we are paying the costs for decades of disinvestment in housing. We pay for it through increased health care costs when people face life-threatening health hazards in their homes, when they are forced to live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions on the streets, or when they defer medical attention to pay the rent or mortgage.

We pay for it through diminished life outcomes and economic mobility when parents must forgo investments in their child’s education or when a student’s studies are disrupted by constant moves or because they don’t have a safe place to do their homework.

We pay for it through trillions in lost economic activity due to worsening segregation and ongoing discrimination that locks millions out of equal housing opportunity.

Simply put, we cannot build back better without investing in our nation’s crumbling housing infrastructure. Housing is not a miscellaneous afterthought, a nice-to-have, or something that can wait until later. Housing is foundational, and America has waited long enough.

We spent the last four years watching the previous Administration prioritize the wealthiest among us and demonize the least fortunate among us. Now we are here today with an opportunity to put everyday Americans first by putting housing first. We have to be bold in order to be successful. Failure is not an option.

Before I yield back let me ask unanimous consent to insert into the record a collection of letters, signed by over 1,000 groups and diverse stakeholders, including child, education, and health advocacy groups. Without objection, such is the order.

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