Congress must take action on affordable housing legislation

Congress must take action on affordable housing legislation
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Despite what you see in the news and on Twitter, bipartisanship within Congress is alive and well, if you know where to look. To say that the political divide in Washington has worsened is an understatement. But policymakers on both sides of the aisle are in fact uniting to address a growing national crisis, which is the skyrocketing cost of housing.

More than 150 representatives and at least 25 senators have cosponsored legislation that would expand and strengthen the low income housing tax credit, a solution that has financed the construction and preservation of more than three million affordable homes since 1986. It is one of only a handful of tax bills in Congress with a similar level of support.

Called the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, the bill would allow more than 550,000 affordable homes to be built or preserved in the country over the next decade than would otherwise be possible. It would also simplify regulations, increase resources, and broaden the reach of the housing credit to better serve rural areas and our veterans.

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You would be hard pressed to find a policymaker whose constituents are not affected by this issue. With housing costs outpacing income growth in almost every state, rent has become burdensome for many families. Now more than 10 million American households pay more than half of their monthly income on rent, cutting into other expenses such as groceries and health care, and often putting them one surprise away from eviction.

The problem is not limited to booming metro areas. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, more than 25 percent of all rural residents are also burdened by housing costs, with the rates even higher among those who rent. Though housing is more affordable in rural communities, incomes are also much lower, and many rural areas have been slow to recover from the damage of the Great Recession.

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act represents an important step toward housing security nationwide. With a more reasonable portion of each paycheck going towards rent, Americans will be left with more to spend on quality health care, nutritious food, and child care, among other essentials. With more stable housing, it also becomes easier for workers to maintain steady employment, and for kids to do well in school.

The benefits of affordable housing extend beyond the tenants of any given property, providing an economic boost to surrounding communities and creating construction and other jobs. Affordable housing allows people to live closer to their places of work, avoiding costly commutes.

So perhaps it is no wonder that amid the political chaos, there is growing momentum behind a policy that will benefit hundreds of thousands of working families, veterans, and seniors. As they think about how to cover their next rent check, these and other Americans are certainly counting on this type of bipartisanship. It is time for the House and Senate to get this important legislation for affordable housing over the finish line.

Emily Cadik is the executive director of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, an organization that advocates for affordable rental housing.