Time to solve housing affordability crisis
Sen. Todd Young, Guest Writer
In Jasper, the economy is booming. But although local businesses are recruiting people to Dubois County, there isn’t enough workforce housing available for new employees to live. Bloomington and Warsaw are facing similar challenges.
In Kentland, realtors regularly hear from Illinois residents looking to flee high tax rates if only there were more housing options.
In Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend ‘ each among the 20 worst cities in America for eviction rates ‘ about seven out of every 100 renters are evicted every year.
In each of these locations, a housing affordability crisis strains our ability to grow and creates second- and third-order effects on education, health and safety.
Millions of Americans in every income range are struggling to find affordable housing. For many people, more than 50 percent of their monthly income is spent on rent and utilities. This leaves little left over for other life necessities.
As I travel across Indiana, I often hear from Hoosiers who are concerned about the lack of reasonably priced housing and its impact on their lives. This is why housing affordability is a key plank in my Fair Shot Agenda, an initiative I launched earlier this year to ensure that all Hoosiers have a fair shot at success, regardless of where they live, work or go to school.
In order to address our housing challenges in a way that gives everyone a fair shot, we must ensure that our solutions move Hoosiers toward a life of independence and our tax dollars mustn’t be wasted on programs that aren’t producing results. The private sector has an indispensable role to play in addressing our housing shortage, so it is especially important that we lift up those government programs that catalyze the greatest amount of private sector investment.
America is the land of opportunity, but individuals and families cannot thrive without access to economical housing. For far too many, a lack of affordable housing has negative, profound and lasting consequences. Research shows that an inability to access safe, decent and affordable housing jeopardizes educational performance and economic mobility. When families spend high percentages of their incomes on their housing, it leaves them with fewer dollars to spend on health care, transportation, groceries and other important expenses, further ingraining them in the cycle of poverty.
Until we are willing to recognize the magnitude and seriousness of our housing affordability problem, it is only going to get worse, especially for those who are already struggling to make ends meet. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2018 GAP Report, for every 100 rental units nationwide, only 35 are available and affordable for extremely low-income renters, meaning those making less than 30 percent of the area median income. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, only 24 percent of eligible households receive affordable housing assistance, leading many to call our housing assistance system a housing lottery.
We must act now to understand what is causing this affordable housing crisis and then take steps to solve it.
That is why I recently introduced the bipartisan Task Force on the Impact of the Affordable Housing Crisis Act. This bill establishes a bipartisan task force to evaluate and quantify the impact that a lack of affordable housing has on other government programs. The task force will lay the groundwork to ensure tax dollars aren’t wasted on ineffective programs and help enable Hoosiers to move into growing communities that offer good jobs and higher wages.
The task force will then provide recommendations to Congress on how to use affordable housing to improve the effectiveness of other federal programs and improve life outcomes. Bipartisan members of the House and Senate will appoint 18 expert members to the task force, and they will report their findings and recommendations to Congress within two years.
In May, I also introduced legislation to incentivize greater choice and mobility in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federal program which provides safe and decent housing assistance in the private market.
Both of these bills have broad bipartisan support, which reflects the scope and gravity of the housing affordability crisis. This is a problem that transcends politics, and we must come together both in government and the private sector to solve it. I will continue traveling throughout Indiana and working with my colleagues in Congress to understand and help address this challenge. The time to act is now.