Chairman Pascrell Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on “Expanding Housing Access to All Americans”
(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon and welcome to the Oversight Subcommittee’s hearing on Expanding Housing Access to All Americans.
Just two weeks ago our Subcommittee examined barriers to higher education, especially for low-income students and people of color.
We learned that the enormous cost of higher education is holding back a generation. For many, the cost of college is prohibitive and, without a degree, they cannot enter the middle class. And those that borrow have mountains of debt that can take a lifetime to pay off.
Today’s hearing focuses on another equally crucial component of economic opportunity and stability. And that is access to affordable, safe housing.
Extensive research shows that homeownership is a gateway to the middle class. But, like higher education, housing has been out-of-reach for many. The pandemic only made things worse.
Today, a staggering 8 million households face foreclosure or eviction. Only 52 percent of households earning below the median family income own a home.
Since 2008, the U.S. has had a housing shortage and, with it, a drastic increase in home prices. The disruption of existing supply chains during the pandemic exacerbated these problems. The supply of homes fell a catastrophic 30 percent.
The pandemic also wreaked havoc on renters. It is estimated that six million renters are behind on rent payments.
That is roughly one in seven renters in America.
The CARES Act put a temporary eviction moratorium in place. It also provided rental aid that has been painfully slow in reaching people.
Minority Americans face systemic obstacles to accessing affordable and secure housing. Segregated housing policies in our country, including redlining, have left minorities behind for generations.
Home ownership among Black Americans is at a rate of 46 percent, compared to 76 percent for White Americans. These disparities and discrimination are a stain on us all and a disgrace to this country.
Congress tried to incentivize home ownership with itemized deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. But these benefits were gutted by the 2017 Republican Tax Scam Act.
The Low-income Housing Tax Credit is another tool that can encourage investment in multi-family housing. I have seen positive results in cities like Paterson. Our witnesses can talk about this credit and how to make it better.
With the first round of the Child Tax Credits flying into parents’ bank accounts this week, we are providing direct relief for families, many of whom are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage.
Today we will hear from a panel of housing experts. I look forward to their suggestions for minimizing the obstacles to obtaining affordable and secure housing.