March 26, 2024

America has a housing problem. New Dems have a solution.

You’ve probably heard of the “Not In My Backyard” — or NIMBY — movement, but you might not be familiar with “Yes In My Backyard,” an approach that embraces affordable housing development in every community. We face a national housing crisis, and Americans cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the needs of our neighbors, ignore the problem or hope someone else will solve it. We need more YIMBYs.

As chair of the New Democrat Coalition’s Affordable Housing Task Force, I’m proud to lead our group of YIMBY Democrats in the House, and unveil the New Dems’ comprehensive Housing Action Plan to combat the growing inequity in the housing crisis.

The stakes are clear. We are short around 3 million homes across the country — a shortage that disproportionately affects lower-income families. In the working-class, suburban district I represent, we face a shortage of at least 55,000 homes, and almost 80,000 people in my district live on the brink of homelessness and in extreme poverty. But even the homes and apartments that are available are out of reach for most Americans; there is no state or county in the country where a renter working full-time at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Historically high interest rates, a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of construction workers, outdated permitting and zoning laws and a lack of federal investment are just some of the issues Congress needs to tackle to get this situation under control.

The New Dem Action Plan demonstrates how to boost housing production and make housing more affordable for every American. It outlines what New Dems and President Biden have already done to expand affordable housing, and provides a framework for what we still have to do to address the housing market moving forward. 

I’ve been hard at work with my New Dem colleagues to make housing more available and affordable, from passing tax legislation through the House that expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, to demanding answers about alleged discriminatory lending practices by Navy Federal Credit Union. 

But there is still much we must do to empower hard-working Americans to fulfill their dream of homeownership. New Dems worked for months with experts and stakeholders from across the country to create our action plan, a roadmap for Congress and the Biden administration to follow in this effort. 

The action plan focuses on five major themes: boosting the construction of homes, removing permitting and zoning barriers to construction, expanding federal financing support and rental assistance, growing the construction workforce and improving data collection to better track figures like pricing, eviction rates, homelessness and more.

Through more than 20 commonsense policy recommendations, the action plan will decisively meet the housing crisis through legislation, federal agency actions and partnerships with the private sector and state and local governments.

This includes recommendations like passing the YIMBY Act — a bipartisan, New Dem-led bill that would streamline home construction by amending outdated permitting and zoning laws — and reallocating American Rescue Plan funds to provide emergency assistance to hard-working families at risk of eviction. The action plan also calls for strong public-private collaborations to tackle supply chain disruptions and housing materials shortages, and innovative immigration policy solutions that would surge much-needed workers to the construction industry.

Ultimately, we can’t solve the housing issue without addressing both supply and demand. Our action plan would take decisive action to address both while lowering the cost of housing and creating secure, good-paying jobs.

In 2005, I lost my home to a fire. To be without a home is physically, emotionally and financially draining — it’s something that no one should ever have to experience. The ability to rent or buy a safe, secure home is critical to ensuring our friends and neighbors can live out the American Dream.

Fortunately, my family and I were able to get back on our feet. But for millions of Americans across the country, this isn’t the case. The federal government can — and must — do better. With the New Dem Housing Action Plan, we’re at the table ready to work with any lawmaker on either side of the aisle on this issue, because everyone deserves to have a roof over their head without going broke.

We’re not blind to the political realities of an election year, and know we have an uphill battle ahead. But as the largest ideological caucus in the House, New Dems have the power and influence to get this plan done so every American can sleep well at night.

By:  Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35)
Source: The Hill