Press Releases

McHenry: To Address the High Cost of Housing, We Need to Address the Root Cause of Local Issues

Washington, January 14, 2020 -

Today, the House Financial Services Committee is holding a hearing on housing affordability challenges, which are most acutely experienced in high-cost, high-tax cities that have enacted counterproductive zoning laws and regulations. Republican Committee Members are examining the local barriers that have worsened the housing affordability problem and holistic ways to address homelessness.

Watch Republican Leader of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry’s (NC-10), opening remarks here.

Ranking Member McHenry’s opening remarks as delivered:

“Thank you, Chairwoman Waters, thank you for holding this hearing and thank you for this important discussion about housing affordability.

“For many, housing affordability challenges are real. The economy is doing quite well, we see wages rising in every piece of our economy, and Americans are better off now because of the economic growth of the last few years. That’s true.

“But too many low-income Americans find themselves one paycheck, one car accident, or one surprise bill away from losing their homes.

“According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, about half of all renters in the country are considered ‘cost-burdened,’ meaning that they pay more than 1/3 of their income towards rent.

“While these affordability challenges exist in many places, the reality is they are most acutely experienced in high-cost, high-tax cities in dense urban areas. 

“These high-cost cities and states are making this crisis worse, not better, by enacting counterproductive regulatory and zoning laws which decrease the amount of housing that can be built; cause housing costs to skyrocket; and ultimately, to put more low-income families at risk of being kicked out of their homes.

“Worse yet, these same high-cost cities and states are also responsible for a nation-wide increase in homelessness, which has increased by 3 percent over the past year.

“This increase is being largely driven by high-cost, high-tax states, specifically California and New York.

“But don’t take my word for it.  Last week, the Washington Post reported that, quote, ‘New York City is the area...with the largest homeless population, but Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego had the largest shares of the unsheltered population.’ That’s the Washington Post.

The data shows that California alone is responsible for almost half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population. Half.

“Moreover, when you look at a nationwide comparison of red states to blue states, the fact is that since 2007, blue states have not been able to reduce their homeless populations at all while red states have cut homelessness by about a third. I think that’s an interesting statistic, and I think it’s noteworthy for this discussion.

“In fact, the Post further reported that homeless data, quote, ‘show that homelessness is, in fact, more prevalent in states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016’ while, ‘states that voted for Trump...have seen larger drops in their homeless populations.’ That’s the Washington Post, it’s not an opinion story, it’s a hard news story. The Washington Post.

“Now, if we’re going to have a discussion about it, we need to have the fullness of the data and the fullness of the answers to these very important questions about homelessness. I raise this because it’s the Washington Post, this is not some right-wing blog that is saying these things.

“If you believe in data, the correlation of it in this case is impossible to ignore: the states with the worst problems are also the states with the worst ‘solutions.’ 

The reality is that if we want to address the high cost of housing, we need to enact policy changes to address the root cause of these local issues, the local problems, not just hope for a new federal subsidy or temporary offsets in order to throw money at the problem. 

If we want to fight inequality, let’s build more housing so that low-income Americans have the chance to live in high opportunity cities where they work.

“If we care about combatting the climate crisis, let’s build more and denser housing so people can live closer to where they work.

“These people on both sides of this discussion want to make things better, that’s important. I think it is about time we propose some real solutions to these problems holistically.

“Back in 2016, President Obama said, ‘if you keep on doing something over and over again for 50 years and it doesn’t work, it might make sense to try something new.’ He wasn’t talking about specifically housing there, but I think the quote makes a whole lot of sense.

“I don’t want to be misunderstood, there will always be a portion of our population that has limitations to work, perhaps the elderly, or disabled, or otherwise. And it’s important that we have a social safety net for them, but we need to have a holistic response here, and we need to be open minded about this approach.

“And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.”

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