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At First Hearing of 2020, Waters Continues to Prioritize Affordable Housing and Homelessness Crisis

Washington, January 14, 2020

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, delivered the following opening statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “On the brink of homelessness: How the affordable housing crisis leaves families vulnerable.”

As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning.

Today, this Committee convenes for its first hearing of the year to examine our country’s rental housing crisis and how it is causing many Americans to live on the brink of homelessness.  In 2019, homelessness increased by 2.7 percent, resulting in almost 568,000 people experiencing homelessness. Areas with high rental costs such as Los Angeles have seen particularly high increases in homelessness. Los Angeles experienced a 16 percent jump in homelessness in 2019 alone. Between 2010 and 2017, LA’s homeless population increased by 42 percent.

While more than a half a million people have no place to call home, there are millions more who are on the brink of experiencing homelessness because they can’t afford to pay rent. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 10 million low income households are severely cost-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 50 percent of their earnings on rent. These households are also twice as likely to fall behind on their rent and be threatened with eviction. Moreover, gentrification has exacerbated the rental housing crisis in some communities. For example, the City of Inglewood, located in my district, is experiencing gentrification created by recent commercial developments, including a new football stadium and entertainment district. As a result, longtime residents have seen their rents spike or have even been evicted to make way for newer, wealthier tenants. I have talked to these longtime residents and have heard how their lives have been turned upside down.

I am deeply dismayed, that, despite these numbers, Congress has failed to prioritize this issue and continues to underfund the very programs that would help people afford a roof over their heads. Not only are we failing to adequately invest in federal programs to meet the needs of people who are currently experiencing homelessness, we are also failing to adequately invest in the solutions that can prevent homelessness in the future, such as the National Housing Trust Fund, which is dedicated to the development and preservation of housing that is affordable to the lowest income households.

Homelessness affects the very fabric of our communities. When I speak to families in my district who are dealing with homelessness, I see the toll this housing insecurity is taking on them, including their children, who can’t concentrate in school because they’re sleeping in a car at night. Every American has the right to safe, decent, and affordable housing. That is why I am doing everything I can to get my bill, H.R. 1856, the Ending Homelessness Act, passed into law. The Ending Homelessness Act would provide over $13 billion in new funding for vital programs that serve people experiencing homelessness and increase the supply of affordable housing for the lowest income households.

We need to do more if we’re going to address the rental housing and homelessness crisis: we need to preserve the affordable housing that we have, and we need to increase investments in programs that develop new housing or provide rental assistance. We know what the solutions are to this problem; we just need the political will and resources. I look forward to hearing from the panel of witnesses we have here with us today.

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