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Housing legislation struggles through Congress

by Zeke Morris


The cost of living in a home has outpaced the wage growth of the average U.S. citizen, and is becoming an urgent concern for millions. Apartment List found that housing affordability is an evident determining factor for the quality of life for many Americans, as it is the highest payment expense. Yet many representatives in Congress have not prioritized housing legislation for the past few years.
The website found that 50 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Another 25 percent of renters and 10 percent of homeowners are “severely burdened” by the cost of housing and spend more than 50 percent of their household income on housing. Further, Apartment List found that the percent of all Americans severely burdened by the cost of housing, 15 percent, exceeds the domestic poverty rate, of 12.7 percent.  
However, out of the 10,222 bills that have been introduced to the 115th Congress, only 115 of the bills related to housing. Of the 115, none made it to the Oval Office. 
Although renters make up 34.6 percent of Americans, they are receiving minimal attention from the legislative branches. Approximately 17 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 8.5 percent of these cost-burdened residents spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. However, of the 115 bills introduced by the House and Senate floors, only 28 were relevant to renters.  

Despite a potentially impending crisis, Apartment List claimed that Congress has remained removed from the issue and the housing policy fails to be discussed on a federal level because it is not a priority. 
After evaluating Congressional websites, Apartment List researchers found that only 14 percent of all Congressmen and Congresswomen have an accessible website page designed specifically to discuss housing issues, while 42 percent had minimal information about the issue available to the public. However, 70 percent of the Congress members who have been more proactive in the housing policy have been members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus or the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. 
Further, members of Congress held a hearing to discuss the issue of affordability and the regulatory costs on the multifamily industry and housing affordability. Additionally, a pair of bills that would attempt to change the housing finance landscape has been introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
These finding could suggest that Congress is attempting to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable homes. An Apartment List analysis of the 2018 candidates found that 133 people of color and 158 first-time candidates were nominated to run for the House of Representatives, suggesting a future with more proactive approaches to the housing policy in 2019.  
 

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