December 12,2023

Wyden Floor Statement on Solving the National Housing Crisis

Watch a video of Wyden’s Senate Floor remarks here

As Prepared for Delivery

I come to the floor today to talk about something I’ve heard raised in nearly every single one of the 1,065 open-to-all town halls I’ve held in every county across Oregon: our nation’s housing crisis.

Oregonians from Brookings to Baker City and everywhere in between are facing rising rent and housing costs at a time when families are already being forced to make tough financial choices. 

In Oregon, 26 school districts—that’s 17 percent—have been forced to buy, rent or build housing for their teachers. Without that housing, these districts couldn’t hire teachers. These districts should not have to add housing development to their to-do list—they should be able to focus on educating our kids. 

This is just another example of how, for too many years now, high housing and rent prices are squeezing the American people, putting home-ownership further out of reach for millions of hard-working families.

This year, I reintroduced my comprehensive DASH Act to tackle this issue. But one thing remains clear: my focus, and what we here in the Senate should all be focused on, is increasing housing supply for all. The nurses, teachers, firefighters, and librarians who don’t have access to low-income housing, but also can’t afford to live in a luxury high-rise. I’m proud to be working toward that goal with the introduction of a new tax credit with my friend Senator Sullivan, and our colleagues in the House, Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Mike Carey – a credit that will help more working families find affordable housing.

Our bipartisan proposal, based largely on the success of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, would help spur a juggernaut of new housing construction. That would be a big boon to the countless middle-income Americans hoping to get their shot at the American dream of owning a home.

All of us here know that there’s no silver bullet to fix the housing crisis. As we consider comprehensive long-term solutions to help working families afford a home, we must also recommit to supporting existing programs that are proven to help reduce homelessness across Oregon and the rest of the country, like LIHTC. 

LIHTC has proved itself to be an invaluable resource in the effort to get a roof over the heads of our nation’s most vulnerable. My office has heard from countless housing agencies across Oregon that are in desperate need of more LIHTC funds. These funds are well-used and as a result, in sky-high demand in my home state. Oregon alone has received $700 million in applications for LIHTC projects—but only has the resources to fund $250 million.

That’s a difference of several thousand units of housing, which would in turn, make a big difference for thousands of families across my state. The stellar track record of LIHTC is exactly why I based this new credit on it. 

There’s no doubt that our nation’s housing crisis has ripple effects across every single sector. School districts in Oregon are buying, renting and building housing just to ensure their teachers can live closer to where they work. Small businesses across Oregon can’t grow because employees can’t find affordable housing, even when they have good-paying jobs. Families are forced to search for months for reasonably-priced properties, only to then be up against several other families of similar circumstances contending for the same property.

I believe there’s a real window of opportunity for the Senate to pass bipartisan housing legislation in this Congress. As Chairman of the Finance Committee, I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to get a tax deal done that includes much-needed funding for LIHTC so we can continue to tackle this crisis from every angle, on top of expanding the Child Tax Credit and key end-of-year expiring provisions.

That’s a good start, but we can’t stop there. This crisis is too big and too broad to improve without immediate, comprehensive action. I’m laser focused on doing everything I can to help working families everywhere get the housing they need and to expand affordable housing options for low-income and middle-income families across Oregon and nationwide. 

I’ll close with this: no community is immune from the skyrocketing cost of housing. That means affordable housing is an issue that can and must unite both Democrats and Republicans, urban and rural. So let us build on the momentum of today’s bipartisan legislation, and take swift action to tackle the housing affordability crisis this Congress.