From the pandemic to inflation, these past few years have brought significant challenges while also showing what is possible when we prioritize housing. Too many Americans face financial hardship due to the cost of housing. Ultimately, there are not enough roofs in this country.

Lourdes Castro Ramirez
Lourdes Castro Ramirez

The need is especially acute in California, where 2.5 million homes must be planned for over the next eight years, with at least 1 million of those homes needing to be affordable to working families, seniors on fixed incomes, essential workers, and lower-income households.

Due to this lack of supply, families of all socioeconomic backgrounds have contended with persistent increases in housing costs, with average rents increasing 12% over the last year alone.

Over the last four years, California has prioritized significant changes to laws and policies to increase the supply of affordable housing—establishing innovative housing production programs and providing new tools to local governments and developers.

Tiena Johnson Hall
Tiena Johnson Hall

The state has also allocated tens of billions of dollars to confront our housing affordability crisis, including deploying a record $2 billion in state low-income housing tax credits, $1.75 billion in housing accelerator funding, $4 billion for the Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention program, and $3.8 billion for the state’s Homekey program. These resources have been used to support housing production for a wide range of households, from units to support extremely low-income to moderate-income Californians.

Yet in California, we are facing a bottleneck in the financing of more affordable housing due to a federal law that limits the amount of bonds that can be deployed and, by extension, the amount of tax credit equity that can be generated to support the production and preservation of affordable housing.

Known as the “50% test,” this hurdle results in tens of thousands of shovel-ready units getting stuck in line every year. Lowering the 50% test to a 25% test would be far and away the single most effective tool to produce affordable housing. This isn’t just a California issue, at least 19 other states are being constrained by this bond limit, too.

Over the next 10 years, this change would result in 170,000 new affordable homes in California and 1 million affordable homes across the nation, providing homes for people exiting homelessness, families with children, and older adults with limited income.

These long-term investments in affordable homes make a fundamental difference in people’s lives for generations to come.

Whether it is affordable housing for the single mom working two jobs in Los Angeles, the nurse who has been working double shifts throughout the pandemic in Buffalo, New York, or seniors on fixed incomes across the country, each community across our nation has continued to contend with the very real and ongoing threat of housing insecurity.

We have an opportunity to help our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans now.

So now is the time to act. As part of any year-end funding package, Congress must include this change in federal law as it will be the single most impactful housing policy that Congress can make to increase the production and preservation of affordable housing across our nation.

You don’t have to just take our word for it.

Just a few weeks ago, a bipartisan coalition of 54 members of the House of Representatives submitted a letter calling on Congress to lower the 50% test, while a whopping 2,500 organizations and businesses signed a similarly focused letter. A third letter to key members of Congress came from a group of housing organizations representing 11 states, including California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania, along with a joint letter from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Building America’s supply of affordable housing means locking in lower rents for decades to come, providing a safe and affordable place to call home, and mitigating one of the leading drivers of inflation impacting communities across the nation.

For these reasons, we are joining the chorus of voices asking our federal counterparts to set our nation on a course in which housing affordability is not just a hope but a reality.