Senate panel debates solutions to address housing market crisis

As the housing market crisis is hitting renters and homeowners from coast to coast, a Senate panel heard from affordable housing advocates and landlords about what Congress can do to address the problem on Tuesday.

Rent and home prices have risen faster than inflation over the last year.

“More and more families are one emergency away from losing their home,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “We have to expand the supply of safe affordable housing across the country for renters and homeowners at all income levels.”

Affordable housing advocates urged Congress to extend the emergency rental assistance programs and to invest more in housing vouchers.

“What we can no longer do is look renting families in the face, families now living in cars and garages, attics, and storage sheds in the richest country on the planet, and tell those families, you know we’d love to help you but we just can’t afford it, because that is a lie,” said Matthew Desmond, a Princeton University Professor of Sociology.

Lawmakers also heard about the impact on landlords.

Rosanna Morey told lawmakers she rented out a unit in her New York home to help pay bills as she balanced being a single mom and battling cancer.

“I had to work three jobs while I was undergoing treatments to make ends meet,” said Morey.

Morey said the eviction moratorium allowed her tenant to remain in her home rent-free for two years even though the tenant was employed.

Morey argued the eviction moratorium ended up hurting small property owners like herself.

“The tenant is basically given the right to abuse the situation,” said Morey. “Landlords are not in the business of evicting but we should be able to in certain circumstances.”

Republicans echoed concerns about what they say are unintended consequences from some government housing assistance programs.

“We should avoid the temptation to adopt so-called tenant protections or permanent rental assistance that will have negative unintended consequences including increasing housing costs,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.