Finance

Top Democrat unveils bill aimed at making housing more affordable

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) speaks to reporters outside the Senate Chamber on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 as the Senate takes up amendments regarding the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday rolled out legislation aimed at making housing more affordable for Americans.

“It’s time America’s lawmakers get with the program and enact 21st century housing policies that adequately address 21st century challenges,” Wyden said in a statement.

According to a summary of the bill from Wyden’s office, the legislation seeks to house everyone experiencing homelessness within five years through housing vouchers.

The bill would also strengthen the low-income housing tax credit, which is provided to developers of housing for low-income tenants, and it would create new tax credits for developers who house middle-income tenants and for property owners who rent to low-income tenants. Additionally, it would establish a tax credit for first-time homebuyers.

Wyden unveiled his legislation one week after the Senate passed a budget resolution that will allow Democrats to pass a wide-ranging spending bill later this year without any Republican votes. Housing is expected to be one of the areas of focus of that bill, and Wyden will play a key role in crafting the legislation because he leads the Senate committee with jurisdiction over tax policy.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, praised some parts of Wyden’s bill on Twitter but criticized the senator’s proposal for a tax credit for developers of middle-income housing.

“There is no sound rationale for investing billions of dollars of scarce federal resources targeted toward the development of market-rate housing, when changes to local zoning laws would have largely the same impact,” she said.

A spokesperson for Wyden noted that the bill also includes a provision focused on zoning changes.

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