On April 30, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing entitled “Housing America: Assessing the Infrastructure Needs of America’s Housing Stock,” exploring the need to produce and preserve affordable housing as part of the nation’s infrastructure and strategies to improve affordability. In her opening statement, Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) said, “Congress must recognize that our nation’s infrastructure extends beyond making investments in our roads, bridges, ports, and airports. It also includes our nation’s affordable housing.”
The hearing focused primarily on Chairwoman Waters’ recently released draft legislation, “Housing Is Infrastructure Act of 2019,” which would authorize robust spending for various affordable housing programs including $70 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund, $10 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, $5 billion for the Housing Trust Fund, $5 billion for FEMA’s Predisaster Hazard Mitigation Program, $1 billion for the Native American Block Grant Program, and $100 million for HUD’s Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants. While Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) thanked Chairwoman Waters for hosting the hearing and starting an important conversation about housing as infrastructure, he questioned such a large investment in what he called “outdated” programs.
Hearing witnesses included Diane Yentel, president and chief executive officer of the National Low Income Housing Coalition; Adrianne Todman, chief executive officer of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; Steven Lawson, chairman of the Lawson Companies and representative from the National Association of Home Builders; and Daryl Carter, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Avantha Capital, on behalf of the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association.
Each witness called for increased federal investment in affordable housing and thanked Chairwoman Waters for the draft legislation that, if enacted, would help turn back the tide of years of disinvestment in public and other affordable housing programs. In her testimony, Todman also suggested Chairwoman Waters add $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) in her draft legislation given its critical role in producing and preserving affordable housing. Several of the witnesses also called on Congress to increase annual appropriations for federal affordable housing programs, including HOME.
Although the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) is not under the Committee’s jurisdiction, each witness also highlighted the critical role the Housing Credit plays in affordable housing production. The ACTION Coalition, which NCSHA co-chairs, also submitted a statement for the record supporting the Housing Credit and legislation to expand and improve it.
Lawson and Carter spent much of their testimony and responses discussing how regulatory burden hinders affordable housing production and preservation, both stressing that it was often state and local regulations at issue. Lawson praised the draft legislation for providing incentives to municipalities working to reduce or eliminate barriers to affordable housing development, with several Committee members echoing his sentiments. Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) also addressed regulatory burden on affordable single-family housing production, arguing specifically that the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule is onerous for nonprofits and deters affordable housing development.
Members also asked witnesses about the modernization of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the impact of Opportunity Zones on affordable housing production and preservation. Carter said he and his firm were excited about the Opportunity Zones program as an additional tool to produce affordable housing. Carter and Todman highlighted the need to modernize CRA to ensure greater access to credit in underserved communities.