Rep. Ayanna Pressley: “Affordable housing is a fundamental human right”

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Rep. Ayanna Pressley

WASHINGTON –  Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley partnered with the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) to author the preface of the 2019 Out of Reach report.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the report, which documents the significant gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States. Low wages, wage disparities, racial inequalities and a severe shortage of affordable and available rental homes continue to leave far too many people struggling to keep roofs over their heads.

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour without an increase since 2009, not keeping pace with the increasing cost of rental housing.

The report found:

  1. In no state, even those where the minimum wage is set above the federal standard, can a minimum wage renter working a 40-hour work week afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit at the average fair market rent.
  2. On average nationally, a renter earning the federal minimum wage would need to work 127 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom rental home at the fair market rent and 103 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home.
  3. A full-time worker needs to earn an hourly wage of $22.96 on average to afford a modest, two-bedroom rental home in the U.S.
  4. People we rely on every day—retail salespersons, fast food workers, personal care aides, and home health aides—cannot afford to pay their rent without spending more than 30% of their income.

“The displacement of families is a national public health crisis,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “As members of Congress, it is our responsibility to fight every day for those most vulnerable by putting forward bold solutions that ensure access to safe, affordable housing. The Out of Reach report outlines the solutions and changes we need to end homelessness and housing poverty once and for all.”

The full report can be found here and the fact sheet can be found here.

The full text of Congresswoman Pressley’s preface can be found below.

“Access to safe and affordable housing is a fundamental human right. As the daughter of a tenant’s rights activist in Chicago, I know first-hand the challenges many families face – families headed by a single parent like my own was growing up and who are disproportionately impacted by the kind of inequity that fuels income and wealth disparities and poor health outcomes.

At times like these, it’s crucial that we recognize organizations like NLIHC who stand at the frontlines of housing justice – advocating for equitable access to stable housing which remains out of reach for our nation’s most vulnerable households. In my district, the Massachusetts 7th, one of the most diverse and unequal districts in our nation, we are distinctly aware of the interconnectedness between housing and economic opportunity. Children learn better and are more likely to graduate when they live in safe and stable homes.

Affordable housing promotes healthy living and provides low-income people a chance at upward mobility. Without it, families are destabilized, productivity suffers, and entire communities crumble. The lack of affordable housing is perhaps the greatest challenge to successfully ending homelessness and lifting millions of people out of poverty. A family in my district alone must work 84 hours per week just to afford a decent 1-bedroom apartment at fair market rate. This country has a shortage of over 7 million affordable homes for America’s 11 million lowest income families. And we continue to struggle to preserve what little affordable housing we do have.

Exacerbated by sky-high rent and real estate prices, wage stagnation, and a widening racial wealth and income gap – this crisis shows no signs of slowing down. Families across the Massachusetts 7th and beyond are being forced to make impossible choices between putting food on the table, paying for lifesaving medication or making rent. People are finding themselves one emergency away from eviction and even homelessness.

Despite clear and urgent needs, the Trump administration continues to starve communities of the resources needed to tackle this crisis. In the richest nation on earth, how is it that 3 out of every 4 families eligible for housing assistance are turned away? This administration’s callous attempts to rollback funding for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs has left more than half a million people without shelter on any given night. So long as there is a national housing shortage, the American Dream remains largely deferred. This isn’t just a devastating trend, but rather a national public health crisis. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must enact policies to guarantee housing for all and leverage the resources to make it a reality.

For too long, too many people have been left out and left behind when it comes to federal housing policy and it’s time those practices come to end. As Members of Congress, we must advance proactive solutions and mitigate the harm caused by this administration. I am proud to join Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Cedric Richmond as a cosponsor of the “American Housing and Economic Mobility Act” – legislation that would make historic investments through the national Housing Trust Fund to increase our nation’s housing supply and provide redress for decades of discriminatory policies like redlining. Additionally, I have called for robust investments in federal programs like Section 202 so that our seniors can age in community with dignity and independence. As you read NLIHC’s seminal Out of Reach report for 2019, I urge you to join in partnership with residents in your community – from food service workers and nurses to activists and organizers– to demand real change in Washington. Change that centers on the needs of our communities and guarantees housing as a fundamental right for all Americans.”