Lawmakers discuss affordable housing crisis, widespread evictions

Nearly 600,000 people in the U.S. experienced homelessness last year and now lawmakers are looking at how income inequality and skyrocketing rents are making it difficult for many families to find a stable home. The House Committee on Financial Services held a hearing Tuesday exploring the affordable housing crisis.

More than 150,000 children in the U.S. went through homelessness in 2019, including Jeffrey Williams’ now 11-year-old son Jaylen, who was just 9-years-old when they found themselves homeless.

"We were forced out on the street,” Williams said.

Williams testified to the committee about how his work hours as a security guard in Virginia fell short of what he needed. He fell behind on rent and was evicted.

"It hurts to know when your child looks at you and asks you, ‘where's our roof over our head?’" Williams said.

Williams and his family lived in motels for nearly three years while in between permanent homes.

"Housing stability is at risk,” Professor and Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkley Karen Chapple said.

Housing and policy experts testified about the need for emergency assistance and tenant counseling. Some called for zoning changes to allow for more affordable housing units in high population areas where they are needed most.

"Rents are rising much faster than incomes,” Princeton University Professor Matthew Desmond said.

Williams has since gotten more job training and a promotion. He now rents a new apartment. But there are families going through similar struggles across the country. Testimony said there is no state in America where someone can work a minimum wage job and afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rent.

"Everyone deserves an opportunity and everyone deserves a roof over their head,” Williams said.

Lawmakers are now considering the Eviction Crisis Act. It would improve data collection on evictions and expand services for tenants.