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Strickland Calls for Immediate Action to Solve the Housing Crisis on House Floor (VIDEO)

October 20, 2021

Washington, DC–Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10) released the following statement after delivering remarks on the House floor today urging Congress to address the housing crisis our nation is facing and support safe, affordable, and secure housing for Washingtonians and all Americans. For every household that moved to the South Sound between 2010 and 2017, there were 0.64 housing units produced in Pierce County, 0.76 in Thurston County, and 0.62 in Mason County according to a 2020 Up For Growth report - meaning that for over seven years, as population increased, the demand for housing far outpaced supply. (Watch Strickland’s remarks here.) 

“Being securely housed is a fundamental human right, but because demand is outpacing supply and costs are rising, this right is out of reach for far too many families living in the South Sound and across our nation. The cost of inaction in Washington's fastest growing region is too great, especially when the tools we need are at our disposal. Now is our opportunity to Build Back Better and to do it inclusively for South Sound residents and all Americans. I’ll continue to fight for legislation like the Build More Housing Near Transit Act, the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Build Back Better Act to meet these challenges head on,” said Strickland.

Congresswoman Strickland’s full remarks are transcribed below.

All Americans, regardless of age, zip code or income, deserve to live in a safe, clean and stable home they can afford--this is exactly what a healthy, just, and secure community relies on. It ensures that people are able to meet their basic needs. When over 145,000 Social Security beneficiaries in my district, the 10th Congressional District of Washington State - representing nearly 21% percent of the population - only have $100 to $200 to spare for groceries, utilities and other basic expenses after paying their rent or mortgage, we know that prosperity is not being shared equally nor equitably. 

When our servicemembers at Joint Base Lewis McChord simply cannot find homes off-post or on-post for their families- due to either lack of supply or the cost of housing, we must clearly improve our mission to support our nation’s heroes. 

These are just a few of the stories that thousands of Washington State residents and families are experiencing - just like millions of Americans across the country. And we know the driving factor behind this housing crisis is lack of supply. We don’t have enough housing and we aren’t building it fast enough to meet the demand. And some of the housing that we do have is not fit for human habitation. According to Up For Growth, an organization that advocates for more housing, the report on housing underproduction from 2010-2017 in Washington State, here are some startling data points - for every one household that moved into my district, there were .64 housing units produced in Pierce County, .76 in Thurston County, and .62 housing units produced in Mason County.

So this means that for every family that moved into our district, that we were producing two-thirds to three-quarters of the housing that we needed to accommodate them. This also means that for over seven years, population increased, demand far outpaced supply, resulting in this crunch or lack of inventory that so many families are feeling right now. What’s more, there remains a shortage of nearly 160,000 homes for extremely low-income renters, and nearly half a million renters in Washington are rent burdened, which means that they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing alone. 

Now housing experts have told us that we need a “once-in-a-generation” solution to our housing supply shortage. That time is now. Now is our opportunity to build smarter, build better and to do it inclusively.

We have solutions on the table, and it’s well past time to use them. We can build to higher-density inside transit corridors, leveraging existing infrastructure. That’s why I helped to introduce, bipartisan, the Build More Housing Near Transit Act with Rep. Scott Peters, to make sure that when we invest $2.3 billion each year for large-scale transit projects, we are ensuring that local land use policies, which are often the biggest barrier to increasing housing supply, will encourage sensible development around these major infrastructure investments. For so long, we have built housing infrastructure around automobiles and that’s a relic of the past--but now, we must invest in transit to look to utilize good and smart land use policies.

For our military servicemembers and their families, we can find solutions in the National Defense Authorization Act provisions which passed out of the House in a bipartisan manner just weeks ago. I offered one provision, which will direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment to answer one question: how long are wait times for housing located on military installations in competitive housing markets? And we want them to produce a strategy to address this demand for housing.

It is simply unacceptable that servicemembers and their families must wait more than 6 months to be assigned housing on base at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I urge all of my colleagues to support the inclusion of several reports that will address the issue, including a report on how and the extent to which commanders of military installations connect military families with local nonprofit organizations and government entities that provide services to the military, including assistance with finding housing.

And importantly, we must pass both our Bipartisan Infrastructure Proposal, and the Build Back Better Act, and specifically deploy the Unlocking Possibilities Program. This competitive grant program through HUD will be used to support cities and towns to design and implement policies that eliminate exclusionary zoning and artificial barriers to adding more housing. I urge all of my colleagues to work to retain this important program in our Build Back Better proposal.

Being securely housed is a fundamental human right, regardless of your political affiliation. The cost of continuing to ignore our lack of supply is far too great, especially when the tools we need are at our disposal. Let’s use them. Let’s show our constituents that we can and will Build Back Better. To do otherwise is irresponsible. 

Congresswoman Strickland has made ensuring our neighbors are safely and securely housed a priority throughout her first term in Congress.In September, Strickland supported provisions in the FY22 Defense Budget to review equitable housing allowances for military families, off-base housing solutions through examining the Rental Partnerships Program, reducing wait times for on-base housing, and shielding servicemembers from unreimbursed moving expenses. In June, Strickland held a Housing Town Hall to hear directly from Washington’s 10th district residents on their housing priorities. In April, Strickland helped introduce H.R.2483, the bipartisan Build More Housing Near Transit Act, to encourage the construction of low and middle-income housing in transit-served, walkable locations.

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland serves as Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and is the only African-American woman who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. She is one of the first Korean-American women elected to Congress and the first African-American to represent the Pacific Northwest at the federal level.

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