August 25, 2021
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Chairwoman Waters, Chairman Brown, Chairman Neal, and Chairman Wyden:
Thank you for including initiatives in the Budget Reconciliation bill to address the nation’s housing affordability challenges. Housing is most families’ largest expense, and stable, affordable homes are indispensable for Americans’ health, education, and well-being. We support the entire continuum of housing assistance in the package, including aid for the homeless and support for affordable rental housing. That said, we are writing to urge you to ensure housing affordability challenges are addressed comprehensively with a strong focus on expanding affordable homeownership.
Homeownership is essential to expanding economic opportunity, a key focus of the reconciliation package. Homeownership offers families the benefits of stable housing costs, and the ability to build assets as home equity increases. It is associated with better health, education, and public safety outcomes. In many parts of the country, homeownership is less expensive than renting, especially for lower-income families. No investment alternative is as beneficial as homeownership for wealth building. If we want to close our nation’s stark racial gaps in wealth, we will need to make homeownership accessible to communities of color long disadvantaged by historical housing discrimination.
Expanding access to homeownership should address both supply and demand, i.e., policies that build and repair homes to increase the supply of affordable homes as well as policies that expand access to homeownership such as down payment assistance.
We ask Congress to support the following legislative initiatives to boost homeownership opportunities:
- The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (H.R. 2143 & S.98) would revitalize distressed urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods by using targeted tax credits administered by the states to mobilize private investment to renovate homes for owner-occupancy. Analysts have estimated this targeted tax credit would result in 500,000 new or renovated homes available for low- and moderate-income homeowners over the next decade.
- The Downpayment Toward Equity Act (H.R. 4495) would provide targeted down payment assistance to first-generation homebuyers to ensure that homeownership opportunities are accessible to homebuyers whose lack of access to generational wealth removes a key resource that many other buyers use. This assistance is especially important for homebuyers of color, whose lack of generational wealth is often attributable to the nation’s history of housing discrimination. Funding request is at least $50 billion.
- Expansion of existing programs that increase supply and access to homeownership: The Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2021 would boost funds in programs such as the HOME program and the Capital Magnet Fund that are used to assist mission-driven homebuilders to develop homes affordable to low- and very-income households in a wide range of communities. Funding request is $35 billion for HOME and $12 billion for the Capital Magnet Fund.
- The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act (H.R. 816 & S. 2300) would create new homeownership opportunities in communities struggling with blight and disinvestment and enable complementary investments in neighborhood infrastructure to further connect neighborhood residents and local businesses to their community’s economic recovery. Funding request is $10 billion.
- Zoning Reform Incentives: The Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2021 (H.R. 4497) would make supplemental CDBG funds available on a competitive basis to jurisdictions that reform exclusionary, restrictive zoning that inhibits the development of affordable housing. Funding request is $5 billion.
Safe and affordable homes provide the physical foundation for success in nearly every aspect of our lives. They strengthen families, neighborhoods, and businesses and pay tremendous dividends for our economy and public health. Investing in our nation’s housing infrastructure by building and preserving homes for affordable homeownership will fortify our communities and will expand an economic recovery for all of us.
Thank you for your support and consideration.