Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—who was previously the director of Portland Habitat for Humanity—has introduced the Affordable Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (HOME) Act, comprehensive legislation to tackle the urgent affordable housing crisis that is threatening families across Oregon and throughout America.
The introduction comes as the gap between America’s affordable housing supply and families’ needs stands at 7 million units, with over 580,000 people experiencing homelessness, and 8 million low-income renters paying half of their income, or more, on rent.
“The vision of this legislation is to create a decent home and a decent community for every family. Oregonians in every corner of our state are struggling under the crushing weight of our affordable housing crisis, and like so many other problems, America’s housing emergency has only been made worse by the pandemic,” said Merkley. “This challenge affects all of us. No one should live in a country where human beings don’t have a roof overhead, or are forced to choose between rent and filling a prescription or buying groceries. Enough is enough. It’s time for Congress to put in place a comprehensive framework to ensure that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.”
In response to the housing crisis, the Affordable HOME Act would:
- Lower the cost of housing;
- Build a 21st century housing supply that meets the needs of all Americans;
- Provide housing and supportive services to reduce chronic homelessness;
- Directly address the legacy of America’s history of racially discriminatory federal housing policies;
- And build fast-acting emergency housing program to deploy federal housing resources in large-scale disasters, like wildfires or the pandemic.
Click here to watch Merkley’s press conference today, when he announced the legislation.
“More than ever, bold policies are needed to ensure that the lowest income and most marginalized people have a stable, affordable, accessible home,” said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “I applaud Senator Merkley for his continued leadership and dedication in advocating for solutions to America’s housing crisis, such as those included in the Making Affordable Housing Opportunities More Equitable Act. If enacted, the targeted resources in this bill could end homelessness and housing poverty in the United States, once and for all.”
“The Affordable HOME Act would ensure that many more Americans have an affordable, stable place to live, and that many fewer Americans ever have to experience homelessness. Senator Merkley clearly understands the connection between natural disasters and homelessness, and this bill would provide streamlined help to communities to address it,” said Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
“Housing justice means repairing the harm done by historic and ongoing racial discrimination in our housing policies to make sure all of our families have a safe and stable roof over their heads. That’s why Community Change Action supports the Affordable HOME Act for the steps it takes to remove barriers to affordable housing for millions of families across the country. This includes investing in the Housing Trust Fund, investing in emergency housing vouchers, repealing the Faircloth Amendment — which limits our public housing stock — and adding a layer of accountability with the Office of Restorative Housing Justice to ensure our actions to address racism in federal housing policy are measurable,” said Dorian Warren, Co-President of Community Change Action.
“Under the leadership of Senator Merkley, Congress is posed to invest critical resources into communities in desperate need of affordable homeownership to stabilize families, build generational wealth, and create more opportunities for prosperity,” said Diane Linn, Executive Director of Proud Ground.
“We have a second public health crisis on our hands, our housing crisis. COVID has exacerbated our lack of safe and affordable housing, however discriminatory policies and federal red tape have for decades, stood in the way of being housed or unhoused, for many. It is high time that we build communities, not barriers. We are grateful for the leadership and strategic vision presented in the Affordable HOME Act,” said Tammy Baney, Executive Director of Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.
“From the year 2028 to 2045, thousands of USDA multifamily properties will have expired contracts. There is currently funding to preserve less than 50% of these properties. This will lead to thousands of USDA multifamily units to lose both rental assistance and rent restrictions, which will further rent burden hundreds of thousands of Americans and potentially leave them without housing. The Affordable Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (A HOME) Act will help preserve some of these properties. Chrisman Development fully supports the Affordable Housing Opportunities Made Equitable (A HOME) Act,” said Doug Chrisman, CEO of Chrisman Development, Inc. in Enterprise.
“Our housing crisis has been compounded by the coronavirus crisis—making it even more difficult for organizations like ours to get the resources necessary to create safe housing that honors the dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors. We appreciate Sen. Merkley’s leadership in working to secure urgently needed federal resources for affordable, accessible housing, and we urge Congress to act quickly,” said Stacey Bartholomew, President of Creating Housing Coalition.
“Seeking to make sure that every American has a home they can afford is at the heart of the work of SquareOne Villages and therefore I am excited to see the Affordable HOME Act introduced by Senator Merkley. This is the solution we need to solve the housing crisis in our community and elsewhere around the nation,” said Dan Bryant, Executive Director of SquareOne Villages in Eugene.
“Folks in my district were grappling with a worsening housing crisis before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the need for additional resources has only become more urgent. The American Rescue Plan relief was an important start, but it can’t be the end. I appreciate Sen. Merkley’s leadership in continuing to work on long-term resources to make housing more affordable and accessible for urban and rural Oregonians,” said Representative Maxine Dexter, Oregon House District 33.
“We are so thankful for the federal and state government support, yet one-time funding is not enough. Senator Merkley’s HOME ACT is critical to our long-term community wellbeing. Communities like Eugene desperately need increased federal investment in housing and shelter. The HOME ACT supports housing as infrastructure that will provide long-term, lasting benefits for our community and country,” said City of Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis.
Throughout the pandemic, Merkley has kept a steady drumbeat on the need for federal action to meet the Americans’ housing needs and to root out systemic inequities in the housing market. That work has included urging the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to work with the housing appraisal industry to address disparities in home valuations for communities of color; pushing Senate leaders to deliver critical housing assistance to Oregonians struggling to find shelter in the wake of last year’s catastrophic wildfires; and pressing the Biden administration to include major investments in affordable housing in the upcoming infrastructure package.