March 13, 2019

Warren and Colleagues Reintroduce Historic Legislation to Confront America's Housing Crisis

Bicameral Legislation Would Produce More Than 3 Million New Housing Units, Reduce Rents by 10%, and Create 1.5 Million New Jobs with No Deficit Impact; Bill Marks Important First Step to Addressing the Racial Wealth Gap by Promoting Home Ownership

Read Letter of Support from the U.S. Conference of Mayors

Read Letter of Support from Massachusetts Mayors

Read Letter of Support from Civil Rights Groups

Read Letter of Support from the National Rural Housing Coalition

 Read Letter of Support from Credit Union National Association

Bill Text | Bill SummaryMoody's Independent Analysis | Explainer Video

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), today reintroduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act to help bring down costs for renters and buyers, level the playing field so working families everywhere can find a decent place to live at a decent price, and takes the first step to address the effects of decades of housing discrimination on communities of color. 

According to an independent analysis of the legislation from Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of non-partisan Moody's Analytics, the bill would build or rehabilitate more about 3 million units over the next decade and fully close the current gap between affordable housing demand and supply; create 1.5 million new jobs at its peak impact; bring down rents for lower-income and middle-class families by 10% -- saving families an average of $100 per month -- and produce no long-term deficit impact.

The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors leadership, over a dozen Massachusetts mayors, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. Over twenty civil rights groups and housing advocates, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and more, have endorsed the bill.

"The cost of housing is squeezing American families in communities all across the country -- rural, suburban, urban -- whether they're struggling to pay rent or trying to buy a home. The legacy of government discrimination and negligence means that communities of color have been hit the hardest," said Senator Warren. "It's time to stop nibbling around the edges and, instead, pass this big, bold proposal to solve our housing crisis and take the first steps to address the legacy of housing discrimination head on."

"It's unconscionable that so many families in our country struggle to put a roof over their head," said Senator Gillibrand. "As housing prices have skyrocketed, the lack of access to affordable housing has become a source of financial insecurity for too many families. The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act would help fix the unfair policies that drive up the cost of housing and would help make a real difference in the lives of people around the country."

"It is unacceptable that owning a home and paying rent is out of reach for the majority of Americans, especially those who have been historically disenfranchised," said Congressman Richmond. "It's up to Congress and White House leadership to pass and implement fair and comprehensive housing legislation to make the American Dream of home ownership more accessible and fair rental prices more affordable. That is why I am proud to reintroduce the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act this Congress. For far too long, I have seen Louisianans and others throughout this country struggle to pay their bills as rent increases and their paychecks remain the same. I thank Senator Warren for her leadership in reintroducing this bill in the Senate and will continue to fight against housing discrimination until we no longer need to."

"The cost of housing keeps skyrocketing for everyday families," said Congresswoman Lee. "In my community, hardworking residents continue to be pushed out of the neighborhoods they've lived in their entire lives -- and far too many are ending up on the streets. The housing crisis is real and it is impacting cities across the country, especially in the East Bay. That's why I'm proud to support the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which takes immediate action to help turn the tide of the housing crisis. This bill will fight housing discrimination and invest in affordable housing for our nation's most vulnerable -- the poor and working class and communities of color. Moreover, it will open doors of opportunity so that families can afford the basics -- including health care and education -- and lift themselves into the middle class."

"I'm pleased to have worked on this legislation with my colleagues. It is a direct investment in the people and communities in this country," Congresswoman Moore said. "Milwaukee, like many other cities, is not immune to housing insecurity and all that it encompasses: inadequate access to food, education, childcare and even healthcare. The American dream of homeownership should be available to everyone. Americans deserve access to safe and affordable homes, and I am honored to join Reps. Richmond, Lee, Cummings, and colleagues in the fight to ensure all our community members are affordably housed. If this legislation is enacted, it would truly be transformable in the lives of all our constituents."

"The shameful government-backed housing discrimination of our nation's past caused decades of systemic challenges to achieving the American Dream for far too many communities," said Congressman Cummings. "These same communities were targeted again in the years leading up to the 2008 housing crisis, leaving families who had just begun to lift themselves out of poverty with foreclosure proceedings and unmanageable debt. The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act seeks to correct a wrong by prioritizing families who have suffered because of the greed of Wall Street and the biases of past government policies. This legislation would help provide people with access to affordable housing, lift them out of poverty, and begin to create generational cycles of wealth."

"For too long, skyrocketing rents and housing costs have pushed homeownership out of the reach for families across the Massachusetts 7th and beyond," said Congresswoman Pressley. "The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act is a critical step towards making housing more affordable and reversing decades of discriminatory policies that have denied black and brown families access to neighborhoods with decent paying jobs, high performing schools, and a chance at upward mobility."

"The rising cost of housing is not sustainable for families in the Greater Lehigh Valley," said Congresswoman Wild. "We have a problem when working families in our communities can't find housing that they can afford -- a problem that also disproportionally affects communities of color. This bold legislation is vital to putting an end to the housing crisis and making affordable housing accessible to all."

"The ongoing housing crisis has reached a crescendo, becoming perhaps the leading cause of economic instability for American families," said Congresswoman Norton. "With housing costs continuing to skyrocket, it is more important than ever that we invest in affordable housing, help keep families in their homes, and update our housing discrimination laws to cover millions of Americans without recourse for unfair treatment."

"The housing crisis is serious in Memphis and across our region and the country," said Congressman Cohen. "One in four renters must pay fifty percent of their income or more in rent. We must diligently work to improve the housing situation within the United States and offer sustainable solutions to this problem. That's why I'm pleased to cosponsor the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act because it will be an effective measure in helping to lower housing costs for renters and buyers so that working families can find affordable housing at a decent price."

"Securing safe, quality housing is as much a component to a healthy life as ensuring access to medical care and fair-paying jobs," said Congressman Khanna. "The Bay Area's ability to drive innovation and attract the best minds is being choked by the dearth of affordable housing, leaving a negative impact on both our local culture and the larger national economy. I don't want to live in the Silicon Valley that only has Facebook or Google engineers able to live here. This bill will tackle systematic discrimination and make residential areas accessible to communities who are increasingly being priced out of them."

The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act will:

  • Control the cost of renting or buying a home by leveraging federal funding to build up to 3.2 million new housing units for lower-income and middle-class families -- bringing down rents by 10% and creating 1.5 million new jobs, according to an independent analysis from Moody's Analytics.
  • Reduce the cost of housing across America by creating incentives for local governments to eliminate unnecessary land use restrictions that drive up costs. The bill puts $10 billion into a new competitive grant program that communities can use to build infrastructure, parks, roads, or schools. To be eligible, local governments must reform land use rules that restrict production of new affordable housing.
  • Provide assistance to people hurt by federal housing policy failures through two targeted new programs:
    • Down payment assistance to communities historically denied mortgages by the government. The federal government denied Black borrowers mortgage subsidies as late as the 1960s, stripping them of opportunities to build wealth. As a first step to address the resulting wealth gap between white and Black families, the bill provides down payment grants to first-time homebuyers living in formerly redlined or officially segregated areas.
    • Support for families whose housing wealth was destroyed by the financial crisis. The bill invests $2 billion to support borrowers with negative equity on their mortgages, predominantly in suburban and rural communities.
  • Hold financial institutions accountable for providing access to credit for all Americans. The bill would strengthen obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to provide credit to low- and moderate-income communities by extending the law to cover more non-bank mortgage companies, promote investment in activities that help poor and moderate-income communities, and strengthen sanctions against institutions that fail to follow the rules.
  • Promote mobility by strengthening anti-discrimination laws and improving the housing voucher program. The bill prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, veteran status, and source of income. The bill also makes it easier to use housing vouchers in neighborhoods with good schools and good jobs and allows tribal housing authorities to administer their own voucher programs.

"As mayors, we are on the ground confronting these issues every day. We write to support the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act. This bill will make housing more affordable in our cities and it will start to address the legacy of discrimination that has held back so many of our neighbors." -- Letter from Stephen K. Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, SC, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta, GA, and Tom Cochran, CEO & Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Read full letter here.

"As mayors of cities across Massachusetts, we feel the weight of this housing crisis in our communities, and we need bold solutions. We are proud to support the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act because its investments are equal to the scale of the crisis our cities face." -- Letterfrom Massachusetts Mayors

 "This legislation directly addresses many of the underlying causes of the affordable housing crisis," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. "Too often in New Orleans and across the country, zip codes are a determining factor in life expectancy. Since Hurricane Katrina, rental costs have steadily increased while wages have remained stagnant. Now more than ever, it is essential that communities not only have access to these vital housing resources, but also incentives to assist with removing barriers to ensure that all of our neighborhoods have the resources they need."

"Residents of East Baton Rouge Parish will greatly benefit from the implementation of this necessary legislation," said Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. "Baton Rouge at large has faced housing and infrastructural barriers years, and we have also seen a surge in rent prices and mortgages in recent years. While the aftermath of floods and hurricanes have opened up opportunities for development in the city, it is important that we remain an affordable place for families and individuals to live comfortably. I commend Congressman Richmond and Senator Warren for their leadership in reintroducing this bill. I want all those I serve to benefit from stable and affordable housing, and this bill directly supports this goal."

"On behalf of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), I commend Senator Warren and Congressman Richmond for their leadership in advancing bold and comprehensive solutions to help end housing poverty and homelessness in America once and for all. The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act has the power to transform lives and communities by putting forward an ambitious plan to significantly expand investments in proven solutions, like the National Housing Trust Fund, to help millions of the lowest income families who struggle to pay rent and the half a million people without a home at all. Congress should quickly enact this bill to provide the lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and others the breadth of opportunities that come from having a stable, affordable place to call home," said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

"Senator Warren has outlined a broader commitment to safe and more accessible economic opportunity in neighborhoods, communities, cities and rural areas across the country. This legislation should have the support of every fair-minded member of the Senate," said Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

"Massachusetts credit unions applaud the efforts of Senator Elizabeth Warren to extend credit union service to those in need by introducing legislation which seeks to permit them to add underserved areas to their field of membership," said John B. Winne, Interim CEO of the Cooperative Credit Union Association, Inc. "Outreach by a credit union to bring an underserved area into its field of membership underscores the important not-for-profit, member-owned, cooperative nature of credit unions while promoting economic empowerment. As part of the fabric of our local communities, the mission of credit unions serving unbanked and underbanked consumers helps both residents and their neighborhoods thrive and prosper."

"The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2019 is an important effort to improve access to the housing market for members of all communities and, in the process, properly recognizes the distinctions that exist between credit unions and banks when meeting community needs," said Jim Nussle, President and CEO of the Credit Union National Association. Read full letter here.

"Your legislation will help bring down costs for buyers and renters alike, and it will open up opportunities so that all communities have a chance to benefit from the financial stability and peace of mind that comes with owning a home. And it will take a critical step towards addressing the legacy of federal, state, and local governments systematically denying housing opportunities to families of color." -- Letter from Civil Rights groups

"The bill is a historic investment that will improve the quality of rural housing and decrease housing costs for rural families," said Robert A. Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition. Read full letter here.

"We have a national housing crisis. We need federal action to solve it. Our communities can't thrive in a marketplace that redlines and displaces us. This bill begins a much-needed federal conversation about how to make sure we all have a safe place to call home," said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President and Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy.

"The price tag on Senator Warren's housing bill is a critical marker. After decades of band-aids and underfunding from the federal government, we are encouraged to see a bill that begins to address the scale of America's housing emergency. Every American spends most of their income on housing, and tens of millions spend over half of what they earn on the rent. This crisis won't be solved by nickels and dimes. Budgeting $999 billion for a range of housing programs is a good start - and we hope that it will precipitate other major structural change, like the construction of millions of new public or social housing units. Warren's bill takes an important step toward repairing America's enduring history of racist housing policy through targeted assistance to redlined communities and people still underwater from the 2008 crash, most of whom are people of color.  For too long, big banks and the 1% have built fortunes on the backs of low income tenants. Senator Warren's bill, paid for by reformed estate tax and including strengthened Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) measures, is a strong move towards justice for the people who have been exploited in our commodified housing system," said George Goehl, Executive Director of People's Action.

"Senator Warren's bill to address our nation's affordable housing crisis is monumental and unprecedented. If passed, this would be the first act of legislation since the 1968 Fair Housing Act to redress a century of housing discrimination. While the FHA ended housing discrimination, it did not have a mechanism to remedy its lasting effects. Senator Warren's bold and practical legislation is the necessary next step toward achieving equity. By focusing on down payment assistance, CRA reform, and non-discriminatory housing vouchers, this legislation will not only help families buy affordable homes but will also build community wealth. This legislation has the potential to benefit struggling communities across the country by reversing a century of racial segregation and alleviating the harsh effects of poverty and lack of housing," said Mehrsa Baradaran, Author of The Color of MoneyRead full letter here.

"Families in urban and rural communities across the country are stretched to the limit by soaring rents, leaving little left over to pay for food, medicine, or childcare. I'm proud to support Senator Warren's bill, which will reduce rents for millions of Americans and open new doors to home ownership so that more people can have stable and healthy homes for themselves and their families," said Matthew Desmond, Author of Evicted.

"The American Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2019 would substantially improve housing affordability for Americans with the lowest incomes, a key to ending homelessness," said Nan Roman, President, National Alliance to End Homelessness.

"Everyone deserves to have a place to call home and too many LGBTQ people will continue to be left out in the cold if we don't dismantle the systems of oppression that keep marginalized communities in poverty. That's why the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund strongly supports the Housing and Economic Mobility Act of 2018, which takes significant steps toward dismantling the history of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and class bias that have been built into our national housing market." -- National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

"The United States needs a much more robust housing policy. We applaud Senator Warren for introducing legislation that outlines major policy changes and provides a blueprint for housing stability," said Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project.

"Key parts of Senator Warren's proposed legislation demonstrate her confidence in the work of housing finance agencies. They serve as a reliable delivery system for critically needed federal resources which help low- and moderate-income families find an affordable home. This is reflected in MassHousing's work and that of our sister agencies across the country." -- MassHousing

"Senator Warren's legislation is precisely what we need to make a meaningful impact on our nation's housing challenge. Right now, less than one in four eligible households is getting housing assistance.  As a result, we see more homeless families and individuals, children struggle in school due to their housing instability, and public health is undermined due to poor quality housing and the stress of eviction and displacement.  This legislation offers a long-term solution to this deep challenge," said Joseph Kriesberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations. 

The bill will help address the shortage of millions of affordable homes nationwide by investing $445 billion over ten years in the Housing Trust Fund to provide up to 2.1 million homes for low-income families. It invests an additional $25 billion over ten years in the Capital Magnet Fund -- leveraged 10:1 with private capital -- to build up to 835,000 new homes. The bill puts $4 billion in a new Middle-Class Housing Emergency Fund to build homes for middle-class buyers and renters where there is a supply shortage and housing costs are rising significantly faster than incomes. It invests $523 million in rural housing programs, doubling the number of home loans available through the programs and preserving 450,000 affordable rural rental units, and invests more than $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians.

Building on the legislation introduced in the 115th Congress, this bill would invest more than $3.5 billion in the Public Housing Capital Fund to help maintain critical affordable units and change the rules to stem the pipeline of distressed FHA, Fannie May, and Freddie Mac mortgages or government-owned homes to private equity firms. The current legislation also extends the down payment assistance program to former residents of officially segregated communities who were displaced from their neighborhood by foreclosure on an abusive loan during the subprime crisis or by a natural disaster.

To fully offset the cost of this historic effort, the bill returns the estate tax thresholds to their levels at the end of the George W. Bush administration and institutes more progressive rates above those thresholds. These changes will affect only about 14,000 of the wealthiest families in the country.

Senator Warren first introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act in September 2018.  House companion legislation was introduced December 2018 by Representatives Richmond, Moore, Lee and Cummings.

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