Chairman Price Statement at Hearing on Affordable Housing Production

March 7, 2019
Press Release

Congressman David Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on "Stakeholder Perspectives: Affordable Housing Production":

The hearing will come to order.  Thank you, everyone, for being here this morning.  Affordable housing production is our topic today—and it couldn’t be timelier.

It’s not an understatement to say there is a housing crisis happening across the country.  Many of the people affected by this crisis are the most vulnerable among us—seniors, the disabled, low-income families with children, and veterans. 

But increasingly, middle-income families are feeling squeezed.  Studies from HUD and other sources indicate that more and more families are struggling to pay rent.  Costs for housing, transportation, medicine, and education keep increasing.

Amazingly, only one in four people eligible for federal rental assistance can receive it because of funding constraints.  This is not written in the stars; it is a political failing.  At a time when housing should be a front-burner issue, we seem to be falling farther behind. 

This is not a reality that any of us should be comfortable with.  In fact, it should force us to ask tough questions about our values and priorities. 

There are numerous factors that contribute to this crisis.  Aging housing stock, rising rents, low vacancy rates, onerous local zoning requirements, high unemployment in areas of persistent poverty, the list goes on and on. 

We know the crisis spans geographic boundaries—both urban and rural areas are suffering from an acute lack of affordable housing.  Meanwhile, producing and preserving these units has become nearly impossible without government subsidies. 

At the federal level, this means flexible grant programs like HOME and CDBG which can act as gap funding.  It also means categorical programs like 202/811 for the elderly and disabled, and transformational grants like Choice Neighborhoods.

Other federal funding streams for public housing and Project-Based Rental Assistance ensure millions of Americans have a safe, decent place to call home. 

On the tax side of ledger, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) remains a major source of private equity for new affordable housing.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s budget requests for the previous two fiscal years have been draconian—entirely eliminating many of these categories of funding.

I’m proud that this subcommittee, under the leadership of then-Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart, rejected these cuts on a bipartisan basis.  After last year’s enactment of the bipartisan budget agreement to lift the spending caps, we made some progress to boost funding for some of these housing programs, including new production under 202 and 811 for the first time since 2011. 

We must build on this progress.  The consequences of failing to reach consensus on the budget this year would be dire.

At least 10,000 units of public housing each year are lost each year, and private properties that utilize other federal funding streams to maintain affordability are increasingly vulnerable. 

Without a major influx of new resources and capital, we won’t begin to make a dent in our national affordable housing crisis.

Of course, addressing this challenge isn’t just about the production of new units, but also preserving our existing stock that would otherwise fall into disrepair or no longer remain affordable.

How do we balance production and preservation?  What federal funding streams and tools are most useful?  How should Congress prioritize investment in housing programs and make it easier for housing providers to use them?  These are some of the questions I hope we can explore today.

To help us better understand affordable housing production and preservation, we have an outstanding slate of witnesses joining us this morning:

  • Scott Farmer, Executive Director, North Carolina Housing Finance Agency;
  • Ellen Lurie Hoffman, Federal Policy Director, National Housing Trust; and
  • Anthony Scott, Chief Executive Officer, Durham Housing Authority

Each of the witnesses brings a unique perspective on affordable housing production and preservation.

Finally, while I am excited to have robust representation on this panel from my home state of North Carolina, I want to assure my fellow subcommittee colleagues that we will indeed be inviting witnesses from other states to testify at future hearings!

Again, thanks to all of you for being here this morning.  Now, I’d like to recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Diaz-Balart, for his opening statement.

116th Congress