On January 31, 2024, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing entitled, “A Blueprint for Prosperity: Expanding Housing Affordability.” It was generally agreed that to address the current housing crisis, the root causes must be identified. Some of the primary factors posited were market failure as evidenced by high demand and low supply of housing, and housing cost outpacing wages. However, there was disagreement about the federal government’s role in the solution. Generally, there were requests for government funding, and federal, state and interagency collaboration. Also, there was a desire for greater federal oversight and monitoring of Public Housing Agencies.

Witnesses Kevin Boyce and Peggy Bailey responded to the concern about high government debt being exacerbated by further federal housing expenditure. Bailey argued that two considerations must be made when thinking about debt, “ability to manage debt and to pay on debt,” and investing in housing will positively impact the economy. Further, Bailey cautioned that there is a significant cost to doing nothing.

Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) supported rental assistance programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers. Further, Hollen spoke about the bipartisan, Young Family Stability Act co-sponsored by Senator Todd Young (R-IN) for families with young children. The program provides rental vouchers with wrap-around services for children. This program has proven to be very effective, and Hollen wishes to expand it by extending it to 250,000 additional families. Further, Senator Van Hollen stated that children in stable housing do better in school and later earn more as adults especially if they participated in wrap-around services. Senator Merkley (D-OR) concurred and reported that affordable housing in a well-resourced community significantly improves children’s lives.

Senator Kaine (D-VA) raised the issue of the twenty percent racial home ownership gap and inquired about state innovations currently being employed to close the gap. In response, Mrs. Ventura from Rhode Island spoke of a First Generation homebuyer downpayment assistance program which offers $25, 000 downpayment to first-time/ first generation home buyers. Additionally, there is a Home Secure program which provides $5000 to families for an emergency housing cost. She indicated that these programs have been effective in increasing racial minority homeownership.

By Aretha Shalanda Campbell, Policy Intern