FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2021
Media Contact: Izzy Woodruff | 202-898-1661 | IWoodruff@nationalfairhousing.org
National Fair Housing Alliance President and CEO, Lisa Rice, Testifies Before House Financial Services Committee on the Importance of Robustly Funding Housing Programs
Washington, D.C. — This afternoon, National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) President and CEO, Lisa Rice, testified before the House Financial Services Committee’s hearing “A Strong Foundation: How Housing is the Key to Building Back a Better America.” In her opening statement, Rice reiterated the need for Congress to adequately fund housing programs in the Build Back Better Act, and specifically the importance of the first-generation down payment assistance program and fair housing enforcement.
Read Rice’s opening statement below and click here to read her full testimony submitted into the record.
“Thank you, Chairwoman Waters, Ranking Member McHenry, and Members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak about A Strong Foundation: How Housing is the Key to Building Back a Better America. My organization is the only national non-profit civil rights agency dedicated to eliminating housing discrimination and ensuring equitable housing opportunities.
“The nation stands at a crisis and housing is at its core. As millions of people face eviction due to the ending of the national moratorium, the Congress and President Biden have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help rectify centuries of injustice in our nation’s housing and lending markets and redress the negative effects of distorted, race-based laws and policies put in place by the federal government that provided housing and wealth-building opportunities for Whites while denying those same opportunities to the people of color who helped build this country. These discriminatory policies helped create inequitable systems – like residential segregation, restrictive zoning ordinances, and the dual credit market – that are still with us today, driving disparate outcomes in every area and facets of our lives.
“For example, White families hold 5 and 8 times the wealth of Latino and Black households respectively. That wealth gap is driven by disparities in homeownership. White households have a 40% higher homeownership rate than Black households, a 36% higher homeownership rate than Latino households, and a 21% higher homeownership rate than Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Households. If we freeze White wealth where it is today, it would take Black households 228 years to achieve the level of wealth White households now have. Moreover, housing insecurity brought on by the COVID pandemic has been disproportionately felt by households of color who are more than twice as likely as their White counterparts to be behind on their housing payments. Indeed housing and residential segregation are social determinants of health.
“Quantitative and qualitative gaps in housing are driving multiple disparate outcomes related to education, incarceration, income, health, credit access, longevity, and many other areas.
“Your zip code determines your outcomes in life. The overwhelming majority of Americans understand this and they don’t like it. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Morning Consult Poll, published last month, shows that most Americans, including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, support significant funding for housing issues including public housing repairs, tax credits to develop and renovate homes in distressed communities, and down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers. Voters know that there is no city in our nation where someone making minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. They view today’s affordable housing challenge as a crisis that needs immediate action. Nearly 90 percent of people — including 76 percent of Republicans — believe that the government has a role to play in creating affordable housing solutions and want to see their elected officials take action.
“The Biden Administration has the opportunity to change history by helping to eliminate the largest racial homeownership gap since redlining was legal. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So we must implement new solutions like downpayment assistance for First Generation homebuyers as Chairwoman Waters’ Downpayment Toward Equity Act provides. Every $30 billion dedicated to DPA adds over 500,000 new Black and Latino homeowners, increasing homeownership rates for both groups respectively by 1 percentage point and leveraging roughly $141 billion in additional economic impact.
“We must also support the renovation of existing affordable housing stock, as provided by the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act and support our ability to effectively enforce fair housing laws by including:
- $1 billion for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP); and
- $250 million for the Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP).
“An overwhelming majority of Americans want Congress and the President to fix our nation’s housing ills. In fact, President Biden ran on the promise of addressing racism and housing inequality through his Build Back Better platform. But we cannot address racial injustice without addressing housing and homeownership inequities.”
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country’s only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities for all people. Through its homeownership, credit access, tech equity, education, member services, public policy, community development, and enforcement initiatives, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.