The United States was in the grips of a pervasive affordable housing crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a shortage of more than 7 million homes, affordable and available to families with the lowest incomes. High rental costs and low wages have forced three-fourths of our nation’s lowest-income renters—disproportionately Black and brown people—to spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities every month. This extraordinary rent burden has led to adverse effects on children’s health and development. When resources are eaten up by rent, families struggle to cover other necessities, like medical care or nutritious food. They are at greater risk of housing instability and becoming unhoused.
Research shows that investments to make housing more affordable generate multiplying returns across many sectors. Stable, affordable housing options located in neighborhoods with abundant resources are associated with better educational outcomes, better physical and mental health outcomes, lower healthcare expenditures, greater food security, stronger upward economic mobility and growth, greater racial and gender equity and fewer encounters with the criminal legal system.
Unfortunately, inadequate investment in housing supply and rental assistance programs, as well as systemic racism that directly harms Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have contributed to our current housing crisis. For example, although it is well documented that housing vouchers and other rental assistance are highly effective at addressing homelessness and housing instability, particularly for children, more than 3 in 4 families with children who are eligible for rental assistance do not receive it due to inadequate funding.
To address these crises in the Build Back Better Act, Congress must:
- Expand rental assistance by $90 billion to serve an additional one million households. Vouchers are more effective at reducing homelessness, overcrowding, and housing instability than any other policy option, and they hold enormous potential to reduce child poverty and narrow racial gaps in poverty rates.
- Invest $80 billion to repair the nation’s public housing infrastructure for more than two million residents. Because of divestment by Congress, 10,000 public housing units are lost each year to disrepair. These resources would enable housing agencies to make critical repairs, such as fixing leaky roofs and replacing outdated heating systems, that would improve living conditions for residents and preserve this essential part of the nation’s affordable housing infrastructure for the future.
- Invest $37 billion in the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF) to build and preserve 330,000 affordable homes and help end homelessness. The HTF is the first new federal housing resource in a generation exclusively targeted to build and preserve rental homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes. By doing so, the HTF is the federal housing production tool most targeted to address the underlying cause of the housing crisis.
Read more about CDF’s recommendations for housing solutions in our recent letter to Congress.