New Democrat Coalition Endorses Four Key Pieces of Housing Legislation

October 18, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The New Democrat Coalition endorsed four pieces of housing legislation it sees as “actionable solutions” to help Americans who are struggling to find homes in a market in which they are increasingly scarce and increasingly expensive.

The endorsements by New Democrat Coalition chair Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., its vice chair for policy, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and its Housing Task Force co-chairs, Reps. Denny Heck, D-Wash., Katie Hill, D-Calif., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, comes in the wake of recent task force forums focusing on the nation’s affordable housing supply shortage and measurable solutions to address it.

That shortfall and its solutions were the topic of the task force’s 2018 report “Missing Millions of Homes.”

The bills which the coalition is now working to advance are:

·         H.R. 927 – Sustainable Communities Act, introduced by Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., which authorizes the Secretaries of HUD and DOT to carry out a Sustainable Communities Initiative to improve regional planning efforts that integrate housing and transportation decisions, and increase the capacity to improve land use and zoning; creates $100 million Regional Integrated Planning Grants to support improvements in and coordination of metropolitan-wide housing, transportation, energy, and land use planning activities; creates $40 million in Community Challenge Planning Grants to foster reform and reduce barriers, including through the reform of existing building codes and zoning ordinances, to achieve affordable, economically vital, and sustainable communities and discourage inefficient land use patterns.

·        H.R. 3077 – Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, introduced by Rep. DelBene, a bipartisan bill to expand and strengthen the Affordable Housing Tax Credit (i.e. Low Income Housing Tax Credit) by increasing the amount of credits allocated to each state by 50% over current levels; stabilizing the value of the 4% Affordable Housing Tax Credit; and expanding and reforming “recycling” of multifamily housing bonds. It also includes several provisions that reform the tax credit to target specific populations, including veterans, extremely low-income populations, tribe/Native American communities, rural communities, low-income students, and victims of domestic violence and stalking.

·        H.R. 4307 – Build More Housing Near Transit Act, introduced by Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., a bipartisan bill that would change the rating criteria for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program (light, rapid, commuter rail projects through the Capital Investment Grants program) to require housing feasibility assessments to determine how and where housing units could be built near new transit stops. The bill also prioritizes local commitment to change land use policies to accommodate market-rate and affordable housing.

·        H.R. 4351 – Yes in My Backyard, introduced by Rep. Heck, the bipartisan bill that would require local governments applying for federal housing development funds through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to report whether they have enacted policies to reduce counterproductive regulations that may affect housing affordability.

In announcing the endorsements, Rep. Kilmer said,  “New Democrat Coalition Members have been leading the way to develop forward-looking legislation to begin to address our nation’s housing crisis.”

“These bills are a first step at actionable solutions to address housing affordability in Congress. I’m proud of the leadership of our Housing Task Force Co-Chairs to tackle one of our nation’s greatest challenges,” he said.

Rep. Heck noted that the bills were written after extensive research into the causes of the housing crisis, and each will undoubtedly improve the situation, though much more needs to be done.

“No one bill alone will alleviate the shortage of homes. But a sustained effort, starting with these four bills, will put us on the right path,“ he said.

Reps. McAdams and Hill agreed.

“Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to our quality of life,” McAdams said. “Unfortunately, housing prices continue to rise and middle-class families are being pushed out of the market. I’m proud that our Task Force has identified concrete steps Congress can take to boost the supply of housing and make housing attainable for more Utahns.”

Hill said the four endorsed bills are, “tangible and measured ways to improve the lives of our constituents.”

While the New Democrats intend to seek additional bipartisan support for the legislation, the bills are already receiving high marks from housing advocates and people in housing-affiliated businesses.

“Our nation is facing a real and growing housing affordability crisis. In order to build the 328,000 apartments each year through 2030 that our country needs to keep up with demand, we must implement creative solutions,” said Doug Bibby, President of National Multifamily Housing Council.

“That’s why the National Multifamily Housing Council supports this recently introduced legislation aimed at producing energy efficient, transit-oriented housing that is affordable,” Bibby said while also applauding  Congress for its continued support of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, something, he said, “which has helped build over 3 million apartment homes since its inception.” 

“Federal action to end homelessness and housing poverty is long overdue,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

Mike Kingsella, executive director of Up for Growth Action, called the New Democrat Coalition and its members “some of the strongest Congressional advocates for solutions to the housing crisis.”

“The Coalition’s endorsement of four key housing bills is the latest example of leadership on housing affordability,” he said.

Also giving the coalition kudos was Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, who said the group has made sustained efforts to prioritize and highlight the issue.

“It is essential that Congress incentivize and encourage more effective land development practices and local and state involvement to ensure all Americans have access to affordable rental and homeownership opportunities. NAHB will continue to work with the coalition to achieve this important goal,” Ugalde said.

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