This content was sponsored by InterIm CDA.

Derek Lum. Photo courtesy of InterIm CDA.

America can expect new leadership after January 20, 2021. With the election of the new administration comes a potential change of idea’s regarding federal housing policy. Two Georgia Senate races will help determine how the Biden administration will enact their housing policies. Below, I hope to outline how this could help in the country, state, city and neighborhoods. 

First, the likelihood of another COVID-19 emergency response and economic stimulus has greatly increased. New rental assistance has become more likely because of a change in administration. The pandemic has made it so that nationally, one in five households are behind on rent. This has extended into the communities that InterIm serves, where we found a large number of residents in need of rental assistance. 

The new administration would make housing more affordable to renters. The Biden Administration would fully fund the Section 8 program. To qualify for this program, you must make at or below 50% AMI. 50% AMI is currently $3870 for a one-person household. Currently, the program only helps 23% of people with that income. However, fully funding the program with $60 billion will bring that number up to 100%. Additionally, the new administration would start a tax credit for renting households who are low income but do not qualify for Section 8 to bring down housing costs to 30% of income. Additional assistance could come in the form of $100 million for the Affordable Housing Fund which includes money to construct and upgrade new and current affordable housing. Additional construction would come in increases to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Community Development Block grants. In the Seattle metro area, there is a desperate need for these investments. There are just 30 available homes for every 100 households or under 30% AMI, and just 45 affordable homes for every 100 households between 31% and 50$ AMI. That is not to mention the countless affordable homes which need to be upgraded.       

The new administration would also do more to reduce housing discrimination across the nations. They would strengthen and expand the Community Re-investment Act. The current legislation ensures that banks do not discriminate against low- and moderate-income communities. However, the legislation does not include other lenders that are not banks. The act will be expanded to include non-bank lending and mortgage institutions, and some loopholes will be closed. Additionally, the new administration would re-start the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule from the Obama Administration, which would make some federal funds dependent on if a community identifies and addresses discriminatory housing policies. This active oversight is an important part of stopping discrimination across America and has helped steer investments into the South Seattle community, and hopefully would do so again.    

The new administration will also help survivors of domestic violence by funding programs that provide services like legal help, advocacy toward landlords, childcare, employment training, and more. Additionally, it would ensure survivors are not discriminated against by enforcing the Fair Housing Act and reducing red tape around the Violence Against Women Act. Through our community partners, we have learned about the rise in Domestic Violence during this pandemic, and about how it is a significant contributor towards homelessness. This investment will be crucial in our community to reduce homelessness and prevent further homelessness, both for those experiencing homelessness and for the public safety concerns of the seniors and local businesses.    

Our country is in a desperate housing crisis, on top of our COVID-19 related crisis. There is not nearly enough affordable housing throughout the nation. Across the nation, 100 extremely low-income households would only find 36 affordable homes. That number goes up to 57 for those at or below 50% AMI. Comparing these numbers to the Seattle metro numbers above, it becomes obvious that our numbers are worse than the nations. America would benefit from these housing policies, and the Seattle area would benefit even more. 

Derek Lum is the Equitable Development Policy Analyst for InterIm CDA.      

InterIm CDA’s workforce-affordable building in Chinatown-ID, Hirabayashi Place. Photo courtesy of InterIm CDA.

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