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Unlocking Housing Opportunity and Reversing Federal Housing Failures

We are facing a housing crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, I joined with community leaders and activists to release a comprehensive legislative road map detailing solutions for this growing crisis. As I took that report back to Congress, I was overwhelmed with support and felt incredible optimism. In 2020, I partnered with Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal to unveil the People’s Housing Platform, a groundbreaking framework that declares housing a fundamental human right.

And then, in March 2020, COVID-19 hit. We redoubled our efforts to meet people's most immediate needs by passing major relief bills to prevent evictions, provide rental assistance, and mortgage forbearance. State and local governments received unprecedented sums of money from the federal government to address this crisis. Like many of you, I have been frustrated at the lack of urgency and certainly the lack of results to getting these funds out the door to provide Oregonians with housing and shelter.

Now is the time to once again refocus on the immediate, urgent needs of our community. Families are struggling to buy first homes, renters can barely afford monthly rent, chronic homelessness remains rampant, and marginalized communities are facing the lingering effects of institutionalized racism. We need to reset and refocus. Our solutions need to be big enough and bold enough to get the job done:

Public Housing: We need to radically increase funding for the construction, maintenance, and safety upgrades of public housing. This includes repealing the Faircloth Amendment, which caps the federal government’s construction of new public housing. We need to build at least 9.5 million new homes to meet the needs of low and middle-income people on the national public housing waitlist.

Homelessness: We must treat housing as a human right and guarantee people experiencing homelessness the right to shelter. We must also provide federal incentives to enact federal “housing first” policies, which ensure that people experiencing homelessness are able to be placed into housing without preconditions so they can receive the medical treatment and social services they need—not just a roof over their heads.

Renter Relief: Renters ought to be able to pay their monthly rental payments. We have to make Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers an entitlement like food assistance and Medicaid programs, create a Renters Tax Credit, expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, incentivize statewide caps on rent increases and triple funding for housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Equitable Homeownership: We need to fight for families who have been locked out of homeownership by creating incentives for first time homebuyers—especially those living in formerly redlined or segregated areas. This must include making the Mortgage Interest Deduction a credit available for all, repealing the ability for the Mortgage Interest Deduction to be used to purchase second or third homes, and reinstating the First Time Homeowner Tax Credit to help those who have been systematically excluded achieve homeownership.

Fair Housing Policy: Centuries of overtly racist and discriminatory housing policies have left massive wealth, homeownership, and opportunity gaps between white communities and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. We must provide federal incentives to end exclusionary zoning, strengthen existing fair housing laws, finalize the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, and double funding for enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.