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Senate Examines the State of Housing

U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing in February on the topic of “The State of Housing 2023” with three highly placed witnesses to give testimony to the committee addressing current challenges and forecasts of what to expect in real estate this year. 

The three witnesses that spoke before the committee included Dr. Christopher Herbert, the Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University; Dr. Robert Dietz, the Chief Economist and SVP Economics and Housing Policy for the National Association of Home Builders; and Lance George, the Director of Research and Information for the Housing Assistance Council. 

Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) began hearing by welcoming his colleague Tim Scott (R-SC) to the committee as the new Ranking Member who has spent nearly 10 years on the committee. 

In his opening statement, which encouraged bipartisanship, Chairman Brown said that the committee in the past spent too much time on Wall Street’s problems and not on housing for the everyday American, something he hopes to change in the committee's two-year term. 

“We’re starting this Congress with a hearing on housing because it’s one of the most important issues facing families from Aiken, South Carolina, to Zanesville, Ohio. Housing determines so much about your life—how long it takes to get to work, whether you have easy access to a bank or fresh food, whether you worry about your kids getting sick from lead paint or mold,” Chairman Brown said. “It determines your access—and your kids’ access—to opportunity. And for too many people, safe, affordable housing, and the opportunity it provides, is just too hard to find. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t hear about the challenges that Ohioans are facing in the housing market.” 

Chairman brown cited anecdotes from constituents who live in manufactured housing homes that have been bought by out-of-state investors; who are in some cases experiencing 90% rent hikes in the last year. 

Of course, this just is happening in Ohio but across the nation. 

“The story is the same—there just isn’t enough quality housing at prices that people can afford,” Chairman Brown added. “In 2021, a record number of renters—21.6 million households (or about half of all renters)—paid more than 30% of their income for housing. 

According to recent data, the U.S. is short about 3.8 million housing units, a gap which is only growing, as well as the number of over-burdened renters and owners. 

Nationwide, rents are 25% higher than they were in 2019. In some places, rent has gone up even more. And while rent growth is finally starting to slow in some places, millions of families are still paying more each month than they would have a year or two ago. 

“It’s a national problem. And it will take all of us working together to solve it,” Brown concluded. “[The] witnesses are experts chosen together by the majority and minority. This bipartisan group will help us understand the housing conditions facing homeowners and renters across the country, and what we can expect in the months and years ahead.” 

“Their insights on the availability and affordability of housing, the barriers to new development of more affordable housing, and the unique challenges in rural and Tribal communities will help inform this Committee’s work to make housing opportunities available to families across the nation.” 

Click here to read the testimony from Dr. Christopher Herbert, for Dr. Robert Dietz click here, and click here for Lance George. 

Click here to view a recording of the hearing in its entirety. 

About Author: Kyle G. Horst

Kyle G. Horst is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler, he has worked for a number of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in South Dakota and Texas. With more than 10 years of experience in community journalism, he has won a number of state, national, and international awards for his writing and photography including best newspaper design by the Associated Press Managing Editors Group and the international iPhone photographer of the year by the iPhone Photography Awards. He most recently worked as editor of Community Impact Newspaper covering a number of Dallas-Ft. Worth communities on a hyperlocal level. Contact Kyle G. at [email protected].

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