Ilhan Omar introduces bill guaranteeing housing as a human right
On Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) introduced a bill that would remove a limit on building public housing and take steps to ensure affordable housing for all Americans.
the Houses for All Act would authorize the construction of 12 million social and affordable housing units, representing a $1 trillion investment in construction projects over the next decade. The legislation would also make funding for maintenance and other public housing expenses mandatory, to ensure that funding for public housing is not reduced in the future.
Omar said the bill, which is co-sponsored by progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and others, is particularly timely. as the nation faces an urgent housing crisis.
“Since the end of the moratorium on evictions, we have seen an increase people kicked out of their homes,” Omar said in a statement. “We need solutions commensurate with the magnitude of this crisis. We need Homes for All, my bill to invest in 12 million new homes – dramatically expanding the stock of affordable housing available, lowering costs across the market and creating a new vision of what the public housing in the United States of America.
The bill targets a particular provision called the Faircloth Amendment, which has prevented the government from building massive amounts of new social housing since 1999. The amendment, argued by republicans in the 1990s, specifically prohibits public housing agencies from using funds to build new housing, and locks the number of public housing units at the level they were at in 1999.
Housing advocates have long called for the repeal of the Faircloth Amendment, and several lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have introduced legislation that would eliminate the provision.
Last year, Ocasio-Cortez introduced legislation specifically seeking to repeal the limit; she got attached has a first draft of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill last year, but affordable housing provisions were finally negotiated and social spending provisions were eventually scrapped entirely thanks to conservative Democrats.
Omar introduced the law on houses for all before, in 2019. But this week’s bill comes as the country faces a new crisis, fueled by pandemic-related economic instability and real estate companies which are buy houses in order to turn them into investments in record numbers.
At the end of 2021, institutional and retail investors accounted for a quarter of home sales. A disproportionate share of this investment is in low- and mid-priced housing, which means buyers are being downgraded and forced to rent.
Meanwhile, business owners are leading what appears to be a coordinated effort to increase rental prices, exploiting tenants who are already experiencing high rates of inflation. According to at Redfin, rents increased by 14% on average; in some cities, such as Austin, Texas, rents are increasing by an average of 40 percentforcing people to reassess their finances or find alternative accommodation.
Housing advocates hailed the bill as timely and urgent. It has been endorsed by organizations like the National Coalition for the Homeless, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Working Families Party.
“Everyone living in the United States should have safe, accessible, sustainable and affordable housing at all times: a housing guarantee. At present, our country is falling woefully short of that promise,” said Tara Raghuveer, Director of the Housing Campaign for People’s Action, who also endorsed the bill.”The housing and homelessness crises are a direct and predictable result of treating housing as a commodity rather than a human right … This will be the new standard by which progressive housing policy will be measured.”