August 09, 2021

Brown to Senate Colleagues: Housing Is Infrastructure

Brown In A Speech On The Senate Floor Called For Critical Investments In Housing

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs today took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support the robust investments in housing that are included in this week's budget resolution. Brown specifically pushed for investments in affordable housing, underserved urban, rural, and tribal communities, and to make homeownership more accessible for workers and their families. 

Video of the speech can be found here and Brown’s remarks on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Mr./Mdme President, I rise to urge my colleagues to support the budget resolution before the Senate.

This week we’ve moved forward on a bill to provide critical investments in our transportation infrastructure – our roads, bridges, transit systems, and their workers. But this bill – for all it does – leaves out another essential piece of our infrastructure – our nation’s housing.

Over the past year as Chair of the Banking and Housing Committee, I’ve held several hearings about housing needs across the country. 

We have heard repeatedly about the shortage of affordable housing, wide disparities in access to homeownership, and the need for investment in underserved urban, rural, and tribal communities.  

This isn’t just about a few coastal cities. 

In June, we heard from Mayors in Akron, Ohio, Bozeman, Montana, and Tempe, Arizona about their housing needs. Their housing markets vary. In Bozeman, home prices are up 50 percent in the past year and it’s almost impossible for young families to find a place to live. In Akron, home values are too low to find financing.

Their issues are different, but all three mayors told us that they need the federal government to be a better partner in helping them invest in their housing and in their communities. Without housing investments, there cannot be economic growth.

That’s because housing is infrastructure.

Where you live determines so much about your life – where your kids go to school, how far you have to go to get to work, and what kinds of jobs you can get. It determines where you do your grocery shopping, and whether your kids are exposed to hazardous lead or mold. 

And we saw over the past year that our housing certainly affects our health.

People’s paychecks have not kept up with the cost of living – particularly the cost of rent.

The typical nursing assistant or janitor or retail worker – the very people we’ve called essential during this pandemic – isn’t paid enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country. 

Even before the pandemic, nearly 11 million renters – that’s one-in-four renters – were paying more than half their income for housing.

For more than half of Black and Latino renters, there is little left over each month for food and medication, let alone saving for a rainy day.

When a hard day’s work doesn’t even pay your bills, saving for a down payment just isn’t a reality. 

And it’s not just renters.

Today, more than one-in-five homeowners are still paying more than one-third of their income for housing.

And the Black home ownership rate is as low as it was when housing discrimination was legal.

We’re the wealthiest country in the world, but we have more than half a million people – including more than 100,000 children – without a place to stay on a given night.

The budget resolution before us today will finally make the investment we need to help more families find and afford a place to call “home.”

It will help us provide funding to make critical repairs to our nation’s public housing and to make it more sustainable, saving families money and reducing harmful effects on our climate. 

It will help provide more affordable places for families and seniors to rent, including in rural areas, and help more families become first-time homeowners.

And it will help communities invest in their neighborhoods – including Black and brown communities who have been left out of our nation’s recovery, make homes more resilient in the face of a changing climate, and help communities make housing and transit investments that work together to bring down the cost of daily commutes and reduce harmful effects on our climate.

With the resolution before us today, we have an opportunity to make people’s lives better and to give our local economies the chance to grow. We can expand access to affordable rentals, make it easier to purchase a home, and put trades people to work building housing and making it safer and more resilient. 

I urge my colleagues to support this long-overdue investment in our homes, in workers, and in our communities.

Thank you.