In the richest country in the world, we shouldn’t have to hear stories about seniors citizens being forced to choose between food and their rent or families being evicted from their homes. And since the COVID-19 pandemic, this problem is only going to get worse.

Often when we talk about affordable housing, we talk about  government subsidized housing for residents who are hit the hardest by poverty. While those programs are important and need to be maintained, we also need to fight for housing affordability. As I discussed a few weeks ago on Facebook Live, housing is often far too expensive even for people with a decent job.

More than 12 million Americans spend more than 50% of their income on housing. Nearly half of all people who rent their housing across the country spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

According to the National Low Income Housing Institute, for a Tennessean to afford an average 2 bedroom rental home, they need to make $16.58 an hour.  But the state minimum wage is $7.25 and Tennessee has more minimum wage workers per capita than nearly every other state in the nation.

Even here in East Tennessee, according to the American Community Survey, 54% of Knoxville residents are renters. And many people are struggling to make ends meet.

All people should be able to afford to rent or own housing and not have to sacrifice food to do it. People should be able to find housing in the same community that they can find a good-paying job. But our affordable housing crisis is bigger than just Knoxville – it’s a crisis across the country and it’ll take more than municipal resources alone to solve.

Federal programs, like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, have helped address this issue. Since its creation, more than 3.2 million homes have been developed and 7.4 million low-income households have been served.

This program has worked. It’s time we expanded, enhanced & strengthened what works.

That’s why I support legislation like the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act and the Save Affordable Housing Act. Just by expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit alone, experts estimate that more than 384,455 additional affordable homes would be built across the United States in the next decade.

We don’t have time to wait. Congress needs to act to expand affordable housing today.