Perhaps the greatest challenge communities face is the provision of affordable, accessible housing. Like roads, bridges, transit, and water, housing is an integral infrastructure in any livable community.
It has been more than 70 years since the United Nations recognized that housing is a human right. Unfortunately, the United States has failed to live up to that standard. From growing wealth inequality to the climate crisis and structural racism, our most daunting societal challenges are inextricably linked to housing.
Congressman Blumenauer has been involved in housing policy his entire public life. Earl witnessed firsthand the public sector’s steady retreat from providing affordable, accessible, and safe housing. He believes the federal government must reassert its partnership to become a constructive force for equity, accessibility, and opportunity in solving the housing crisis.
In one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, nearly 570,000 people experience homelessness every night and nearly half of renters are paying more than 30% of their income in rent. The United States has a shortage of seven million rental homes available to extremely low-income renters and there isn’t a single state that has an adequate supply of affordable rental homes. Affordable housing is too often out of reach, particularly for workers earning around the minimum wage. We all know people or families who stretch their budgets to pay one-third or one-half of their income for housing. That is unacceptable.
We need a reset. Earl wrote a report titled, “Locked Out: Reversing Federal Housing Failures and Unlocking Opportunity” to share the history of the federal government’s role in housing and find solutions for five of our most vexing housing policy challenges:
- Public Housing: Once a major source of affordable housing for low-income Americans, Congress has artificially capped the construction of new public housing for the past 20 years.
- Homelessness: Most of the country’s “successful” communities have thousands of people experiencing homelessness due to astronomical rent increases, job loss, eviction, or mental illness.
- Renter Relief: Rental prices have skyrocketed at a much faster pace than incomes, leaving millions of renters pinching pennies just to get by.
- Equitable Homeownership: The federal government’s largest housing expenditure is the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which is targeted at the wealthiest Americans, while there are minimal tools for helping traditionally marginalized communities buy their first home.
- Fair Housing: Centuries of discrimination left communities segregated and unequal. The federal government has not established the support structures to remedy the burden it caused.
Read his full report, here.
Earl is working in Congress to enact key provisions of this report into law. Our community needs solutions and resources now.
In January 2020, Earl worked with progressive champions Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, and Chuy Garcia to unveil the People’s Housing Platform. The platform is a progressive framework that includes legislation from all seven members to expand available public housing stock, reduce skyrocketing rents, finally invest in homelessness assistance, and provide opportunities for homeownership. Together, these representatives have boldly declared housing as a fundamental human right and are working to achieve that end.
Earl supported an amendment to the annual appropriations bill in the House that would eliminate the Faircloth amendment that limits the amount of public housing that can be built. Earl also worked with Representative Ocasio-Cortez to pass amendments to block Trump’s racist rollback of federal fair housing protections.