August 20, 2018

Senator Hassan Seacoast Online Op-Ed: Expanding Opportunity by Making Rent More Affordable

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Senator Maggie Hassan wrote an op-ed over the weekend in Seacoast Online, emphasizing the importance of increasing access to affordable housing in communities across New Hampshire, and discussing her efforts in Congress to expand opportunity for hard-working Granite Staters by making rent more affordable.

Senator Hassan recently joined colleagues in introducing the Rent Relief Act, which would help families afford housing by creating a refundable tax credit that would be available to individuals who live in rental housing and spend more than 30 percent of their gross incomes for the taxable year on their rental costs, including utilities. Under the bill, assistance would be given on a sliding scale based on income and would phase out at high income levels. The Senator also cosponsored bipartisan legislation to increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which facilities like Casimir Place depend upon to continue providing affordable housing. 

See below for the op-ed, or click here:

Seacoast Online Op-Ed: Expanding opportunity by making rent more affordable

By U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan

Too many families are working hard and doing all the right things, yet still find themselves struggling to afford the basics needed to thrive. 

While there are many factors squeezing families’ bottom lines, one challenge that is particularly pronounced in Rockingham County is the shortage of affordable housing. 

The numbers are stark. A recent study from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority showed that the median cost for a two-bedroom apartment has increased 19 percent over the last five years. The average hourly wage a household must earn in our state in order to afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental is the 14th highest in the country. And to afford the median two-bedroom rent in Rockingham County - $1,456 a month - a renter would have to earn $58,200 a year. 

These rising costs, combined with the fact that middle-class wage growth remains stagnant, are leaving hard-working Granite Staters with difficult choices in finding quality housing while remaining economically secure.

The lack of affordable housing also has a major impact on our businesses. I have heard from business owners across our state who have said that they face real challenges with hiring and retaining employees because workers are struggling to find housing that they can afford. 

To strengthen economic opportunity, it is clear that hard-working families need relief from the rising cost of rent, which is why I have joined with colleagues to introduce the Rent Relief Act of 2018. 

Under this legislation, those who live in rental housing and pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent, including utilities, would be eligible for a refundable tax credit. This assistance would be given on a sliding scale based on income and would phase out at high income levels. Those struggling to afford high rent would qualify for the tax credit by determining the total amount spent yearly on rent, taking into account the family’s annual income, and the federal government’s established fair market rent rates for the area.

The Rent Relief Act is a straightforward way to support those who are affected by skyrocketing rent prices. And at a time when some in Washington are focused on giving tax breaks to corporate special interests and the wealthiest Americans, this bill would be a commonsense way to give much needed support to hard-working families.

At the same time, we need to focus on other ways to address the limited supply of affordable housing and the rising cost of rent. That is why I co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which would support rental housing complexes throughout our state that provide affordable housing to individuals in need. And I am continuing to fight for funding for a number of federal affordable housing programs, many of which received increases as part of the recent bipartisan spending bill that the Senate passed earlier this year. 

The growing housing crisis affects all of us. Having access to a home that doesn’t break the bank enables citizens to live and contribute to economic and civic life in the communities where they work. It also expands middle class opportunity and ensures that hard-working families can thrive.

Additionally, the availability of affordable housing is critical to keeping more young people in our state, attracting more workers to meet the needs of our businesses, and supporting our aging population.

I am going to continue fighting for commonsense steps that would give Granite Staters much needed support, and in turn, strengthen our economy.

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By:  Senator Maggie Hassan
Source: Seacoast Online