The Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee held a field hearing on Thursday, February 22, 2024, “Restoring Prosperity in American Communities: Examining the Failures of Status Quo Housing Policy.” Chairman Davidson (OH-R) stated that the American people have been adversely impacted by bad government decisions and failed federal housing policies. Further, the current hearing, one of six so far, was a field visit to Rockland County, NY, meant to elevate the voices of local citizens. Chairman Davidson indicated that this was necessary because the burden and cost of implementation falls on the local government.

Ralph Yamaguchi, Institute of Real Estate Management, attributed the housing crisis to a lack of supply and barriers to development that are the result of state law such as the Housing Stability and Protection Act (HSTPA) of 2019. Yamaguchi, a landlord, was a strong advocate for an increase in Section 8 vouchers and having them paid directly to the landlords. Representative Flood (R-NE) offered some pushback and provided an example of landlords abusing Section 8 tenants, and he solicited witness feedback on the issue. Leah Goodridge Esq. from Mobilization for Justice indicated that based on her professional experience landlord abuses were not addressed.

Supervisor Ms. Kenny of Orange County, Rockland, attributed the housing crisis in her area to COVID-19 and the influx of higher income, remote-working, NYC residents. Additional contributors were people aging in place, interest rates, price of homes, taxes, and outdated zoning laws for single family housing. Ms. Kenny indicated the local government wanted financial incentives from the state and federal government but no mandates. However, she added that local government must be open to innovation.

John Ketchum, Fellow and Director of Cities at the Manhattan Institute, reported that NYC is experiencing a low vacancy rate of 1.4% and that the lack of affordable housing in high productivity areas like NYC causes a reduction in aggregate growth across the US. Ketchum cited research for 1964-2009 which indicated a 36% reduction in aggregate growth in the US due to lack of affordable housing. Ketchum’s recommendations were loosening of restrictions to facilitate new housing development such as Accessory dwelling units (ADU), HDU in rental vouchers and an end to the environmental review and assessment process. Ms. Kenny and Goodridge countered and advocated for the reformation of the environment review and assessment indicating it is essential to the wellbeing of everyone in the community.

Leah Goodridge Esq. focused on rent stabilization and indicated that most evictions are in private unregulated apartments. Further, Goodridge indicated rent stabilization is especially beneficial to the elderly and the disabled while affording landlords a tax incentive. However, Goodridge reported that mandatory inclusionary housing/affordable housing caters to people of moderate income, and not lower income essential workers. Lawler (NY-R) indicated that there are people who qualify for rent stabilization that should not because of their high income. Goodridge indicated that the federal government income standards facilitate these high-income examples. Lawler and Goodridge agreed that NYCHA (public housing) was desperately in need of intervention. Some suggestions were financial investment, monitoring and a public/private partnership.

By Aretha Shalanda Campbell, Policy Intern