Chairman Price Statement at the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development Hearing

2021-04-21 14:20

Congressman David Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Madam Secretary, we are glad to have a former colleague before us. We congratulate you, and the President as well for making an inspired choice. As someone used to sitting on our side of the dais, I doubt there is much we will say or do that will surprise you!

We share many goals for addressing the vast needs and complex housing challenges facing communities across America, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that HUD has the resources necessary to carry out its critical mission.

From the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, to the fiscal year 2022 budget request before us today, it is clear that President Biden is serious about making necessary investments to improve the quality of the life for the millions of Americans who struggle to provide quality housing for themselves and their families at a price they can afford.

For far too long, low-income Americans throughout the country – urban, suburban, rural, and tribal alike – have had to make difficult decisions in the face of an affordable housing crisis whereby demand and need far outpace production and supply. Families sometimes wait years before receiving the help they need to move into stable housing near good schools, reliable transportation, and supportive care.

Of course, the problem isn’t just the quantity of affordable units, it’s also about the quality of those units.

For those fortunate enough to secure housing they can afford, it is often met with tradeoffs – with families having to settle for locations that make it difficult to connect to well-paying jobs or for units that require major repairs. 

Carbon monoxide, lead, radon, and other health hazards continue to pose major, potentially life-threatening challenges for renters, as well as for landlords who are responsible for maintaining decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Just last year in my district, Durham residents experienced the real human costs of deferred maintenance in our public housing stock, as hundreds were evacuated from public housing in the face of carbon monoxide poisoning.

And then there is the homelessness crisis.  HUD’s “Point-in-Time” count – conducted on a single night in January 2020 – found that on any given night, more than 580,000 people, including nearly 17,000 homeless youth and their children, are living on the street, in a car, in a shelter, or temporarily living with friends or family. This is more than a 2 percent increase in overall homelessness and a 7 percent increase in unsheltered homelessness from 2019.

And we know that since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has made all the circumstances leading to homelessness more acute. The people that were already the most vulnerable among us – seniors, the disabled, low-income families with children, veterans, and communities of color – have experienced a disproportionate impact of a health crisis that has shed a light on pre-existing disparities. We must ensure that these individuals are central to our nation’s recovery and rebuilding efforts.

This Subcommittee has sought to do our part to address these challenges under my leadership and that of my good friend, Mr. Diaz-Balart.  Over the last four fiscal years, we have provided more than $33 billion in new resources for public housing; vouchers for veterans, youth aging out of foster care, and families; and targeted assistance to states, localities, and non-profits to address complex homelessness, rapid rehousing and community development needs. 

These investments have supported new construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing, improvements to public housing, housing remediation to improve the environmental health and safety of homes, and community-wide upgrades.

More recently, we worked with our authorizing colleagues to provide $42.3 billion through the American Rescue Plan for emergency vouchers, tribal housing programs, housing counseling services, fair housing activities, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, emergency rental assistance, and assistance to homeowners.

While these investments have been a vital response to the COVID-19 pandemic – they only provide temporary relief for what we know are longer-term challenges.

The unmet needs in our communities are immense and require us to think boldly about the future of housing in our country. Housing plays a central role in stabilizing communities and creating pathways to homeownership and wealth—it’s hard to keep good health, achieve positive educational outcomes, or reach economic potential without a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.

That is why I was so pleased to see President Biden include housing in the American Jobs Plan echoing what our Subcommittee has been saying for years: housing is infrastructure, and it deserves to be a front-burner issue!

The President’s bold American Jobs Plan will provide $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes to underserved communities across the country.  These homes will be safe, energy efficient, and more resilient to the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

The plan would invest $40 billion in our public housing stock for activities like repairing leaking roofs that lead to mold, upgrading aging boilers systems so that no resident goes without heat during the winter, and to make other investments which will help reduce operating costs and improve the quality of life of residents.

Recognizing the key role HUD plays in building back better communities, the American Jobs Plan also includes the flexible and popular Community Development Block Grant as a tool to improve resiliency and “Main Street” revitalization efforts.

Many of these proposed American Jobs Plan investments are also woven throughout President Biden’s FY22 budget request.

For the first time in four long years, the HUD budget would actually increase vital programs, rather than propose unacceptable cuts or outright eliminations. Overall, the budget request provides $68.7 billion for HUD--a 15 percent increase over fiscal year 2021!  That’s a very welcome change from the prior Administration.

We all know that the budget is a moral document, and this budget clearly aims to make progress for those who need it most. It proposes $30.4 billion in housing choice vouchers, $3.5 billion to combat homelessness, $3.6 billion to improve living conditions in public and other low-income housing, and $1.9 billion to construct and rehabilitate affordable rental housing through the HOME program.  These are all increases above fiscal year 2021.

I was particularly pleased to see $180 million in funding for new construction in the 202 and 811 housing programs, building on investments this subcommittee has prioritized in prior years to address significant housing shortfalls for the elderly and the disabled.

There was also a strong, renewed focus on the enforcement of our civil rights laws, with a proposed 17 percent increase for HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The last four years saw numerous administrative attempts to roll back fair housing regulations, representing a fundamental abandonment of our obligations under the Fair Housing Act. 

Thankfully, this Administration is working to review and reverse many of those regulatory actions, with HUD working to repair some of the damage done.

Stable housing is a basic human need and the foundation upon which people build their lives, and that is clearly reflected in this Administration’s budget request.

Secretary Fudge, I look forward to your testimony today and working with you to ensure HUD has the funding it needs to carry out its vital mission of supporting families and communities throughout the nation.

Now I’d like to recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Diaz-Balart, for his opening statement.

117th Congress