Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced a trio of bills addressing the housing crisis.
They would expand housing vouchers and send $100 billion to help first-generation homebuyers.
The bills, which offer a slew of other policy solutions, are focused on reducing the racial wealth gap.
Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, introduced a trio of bills last week that offer far-reaching fixes for the nation’s worsening housing affordability and homelessness crises.
The legislation — which includes expanding housing vouchers and sending $100 billion to help first-time, first-generation homebuyers — is focused on reducing the racial wealth gap. The gap between the rate of homeownership among Black versus white families is now at its widest point in a decade and contributes significantly to the wealth gap.
“Together, these bills represent the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in U.S. history and comes at a time when our nation’s housing and homelessness crisis has reached its worst state,” Waters said in a statement.
One bill — the Housing Crisis Response Act of 2023 — includes over $150 billion in funding for affordable housing and investments in closing the racial housing gap. It aims to create almost 1.4 million affordable homes and help 294,000 households pay rent, while strengthening oversight of fair housing practices to battle discrimination.
Another bill — the Ending Homelessness Act of 2023 — includes $10 billion to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness and would make the temporary US Interagency Council on Homelessness permanent.
It would also dramatically expand the federal housing voucher program to make it an entitlement that all Americans who qualify for can receive, rather than being turned away due to lack of supply. Currently, just 20% of those who are eligible for housing vouchers actually got them, lawmakers found, and those who receive them first sit on a waitlist for an average of two and a half years. Overall, just one in six eligible families live in public housing, receive a rent-reducing voucher, or live in a subsidized multifamily unit, according to the US Census Bureau.
The third piece of legislation — the Downpayment Toward Equity Act of 2023 — would send $100 billion in assistance to about 5 million first-generation homebuyers, who are disproportionately Black and Hispanic. It would provide up to $20,000 in aid for first-generation homebuyers and up to $25,000 for “socially and economically disadvantaged” buyers.
It’s appropriate that Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, is a leading voice on housing affordability and homelessness issues, as her state is disproportionately impacted by these issues. The state is dealing with an enduring housing shortage and skyrocketing rent and home prices. And while California is 12% of the country’s total population, it’s home to 30% of people experiencing homelessness and half of the unsheltered homeless population in the US.
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