President Biden signed the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” into law on August 16. While there is much to commend in the legislation – including the infusion of hundreds of billions of dollars into climate and energy programs, expanded healthcare subsidies, and lower prescription drugs costs – Congress missed an extraordinarily rare opportunity to address a primary driver of inflation and a critical issue facing the lowest-income and most marginalized households: skyrocketing rents and a lack of housing affordability.
Data show that rent has climbed 18% nationwide over the last year alone. Not surprisingly, low-income renters are struggling to afford housing and more are falling into a vicious spiral of housing instability, eviction, and homelessness. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Government Accountability Office found that a median rent increase of $100 per month was associated with a 9% increase in homelessness. At the same time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the shelter index accounted for over 40% of the spike in “core inflation” – the largest factor in the overall increase. Research clearly shows that investments in affordable housing generate multiplying returns across many sectors. Stable, affordable housing options located in neighborhoods of opportunity are associated with better educational outcomes, better physical and mental health outcomes, lower healthcare expenditures, greater food security, faster upward economic mobility, greater racial and gender equity, fewer encounters with the criminal legal system, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, years of underinvestment in affordable housing solutions have contributed to our current housing crisis. For example, although it is well documented that housing vouchers and other forms of rental assistance are very effective in addressing homelessness and housing instability, reducing domestic violence, and improving other outcomes, only one in four people eligible for rental assistance receives it due to inadequate funding. The Opportunity Starts at Home campaign – alongside other leading organizations from the healthcare, education, climate, hunger, child welfare, gender and racial equity, criminal justice, faith, and other sectors –consistently urged Congress to include robust investments in housing vouchers, public housing, and the national Housing Trust Fund in any reconciliation legislation. These are the three solutions which, if scaled to meet the existing need, would end housing instability and homelessness for the lowest-income people.
Unfortunately, because none of these housing investments are included in the Inflation Reduction Act, the lowest-income people will likely continue to bear the brunt of the nation’s worsening housing crisis, and the consequences will continue to hamstring our ability to achieve other national priorities. Ongoing federal inaction on the housing crisis is simply unacceptable.
Learn more about the campaign’s efforts here.