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December 1, 2022

At Hearing, Pressley Calls for Affordable Housing Investments, Rent Stabilization to Address Inflation, Housing Crisis

“We need to pair these longer-term investments with short term solutions that alleviate the financial pain that families are facing today.”

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, at a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) called for long-term investments in affordable housing and immediate solutions like rent stabilization to help address cost of living and confront skyrocketing rent hikes across the country.

A full transcript of her exchange with witnesses is available below and the video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley Calls for Affordable Housing Investments, Rent Stabilization to Address Inflation, Housing Crisis
Financial Services Committee

December 1, 2022

REP. PRESSLEY:  Thank you Mr. Chair, and I thank our Chairwoman for holding this critical hearing and consistently highlighting the urgent need in our country for fair and affordable housing. In my district, the Massachusetts Seventh, housing is devastatingly in short supply. My constituents, those who are Black, brown and low-income, are being priced out of their homes due to skyrocketing rent.

And I want to highlight today just how urgent the need is for investments and policy solutions that meet the moment to address this housing crisis, especially for renters in districts like my own. Across Massachusetts, a quarter of all residents spend half their income or more on housing. Boston is now the second most expensive city in the country to rent in. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is just over $3,000. This is a crisis, and we must act swiftly.

Housing is at the intersect of everything. We will never actualize economic justice, close the racial wealth gap, improve public health outcomes, recognizing that housing is a critical determinant of health, or meet our climate goals without addressing this housing crisis – affordable housing crisis. So Congress must act simultaneously by investing in affordable housing supply as a long term solution while also enacting policies in the immediate to reduce costs in the here and now.

Mr. Mitchell, experts agree the limited supply of affordable housing is the root cause of housing inflation. Can you explain why we must address it?

MR. MITCHELL: Absolutely. Absolutely, Congresswoman. I mean, to your point exactly, what you said. Many folks in the housing advocacy space say the rent eats first. And what this means is housing, as the single largest budget item for households and for low-income families accounting for almost half of their budgets – it means that they have that much harder of a time when rents increase of making ends meet and become that much closer to eviction and homelessness. And this is especially true for Black and brown renters, or roughly one in five Black renters last month, reported that their household was behind on rent payments. So it’s absolutely imperative that we address the housing affordability crisis.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. I certainly agree. And this committee under Democratic leadership has long supported bold investments in our housing supply. But even so, working families across our nation are struggling right now and they cannot afford to wait years for housing supply to be built. There are seven days in a week and not one of them is called ‘someday.’ We’ve got to act now we need to pair these longer-term investments with short term solutions that alleviate the financial pain that families are facing today.

In past moments of crisis, when prices previously spiraled out of control, our country enacted price controls in housing to maintain stability. Mr. Mitchell, how would rent stabilization be effective in ensuring folks our house in the short term and helping working families across the country also while avoiding homelessness?

MR. MITCHELL: Again, given the immediate needs of renters and the outsize power of landlords to significantly raise rents in this moment, rent stabilization policies offer a near-term pathway of providing relief to renters and addressing the fundamental power imbalance that we’re seeing right now.

And we should note that rent control policies have evolved tremendously over time. Most modern rent stabilization efforts. They target specific property types within a city or locality, and they allow for more rent controlled and controlled rent increases. And that mitigates a lot of the negative concerns that people often associate with rent control policies.

And the research here is very clear. Rent control policies, they reduce rents for the tenants that they’re targeted at. They increase residential stability. They protect tenants from eviction, and more recent research suggests that these modest rent stabilization policies, they also do not deter new construction. So, in some ways, you can see that pairing these rent stabilization policies, then with the investments in putting new supply online can work well and work hand in hand together.

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Mitchell. I certainly agree and housing is a human right. We have to be responsive to the pain that families are currently experiencing with a two-prong solution that pairs longer term investment in housing supply with immediate policy changes that ensure access to affordable housing. Everyone deserves more than shelter. They deserve to have a home. Thank you, and I yield back.