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Brown Takes to Senate Floor, Sheds Light On Obstacles Facing Individuals, Families Struggling to Find and Afford a Home

Black and Brown Individuals, Families Disproportionately Affected By Unfair Housing Laws

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WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took to the Senate floor to shed light on the obstacles facing individuals and families struggling to find and afford a home. Wages have not kept pace with housing costs, and whether they rent, own, are trying to save for a down payment or are trying to age with dignity in their own homes, Ohioans are finding it harder to afford housing that meets their needs. These obstacles are felt more greatly by black and brown individuals and families seeking housing, who have been systematically denied the ability to choose where they live and to build wealth through home ownership.

“You can’t talk about the Dignity of Work without tackling the biggest item in most families’ budgets – housing,” said Brown.

Brown is asking Ohioans to share their stories as he continues to work on policies to make housing more affordable and reverse discriminatory policies that keep Ohioans from accessing quality housing.

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery can be found below:

For too many people, hard work isn’t paying off. Even people with supposedly middle class jobs don’t feel stable.

Wages are flat, while the cost of everything is up – health care, child care, college, prescription drugs, and especially housing.

You can’t talk about the Dignity of Work without tackling the biggest item in most families’ budgets – housing.

Where you live is central to living with dignity – whether you write a rent check, or pay a mortgage. Whether you’re saving for a down payment, or just looking for a safe roof over your head. Whether you live in a city or a suburb, in the country or a small town.

Fundamentally, we all pretty much want the same thing – a place that’s safe, in a community we care about, where we can get to work and our kids have a good school, with room for our family – whether that’s three kids, or an aging parent, or a beloved pet.

You should get to define what home looks like for you. And you should be able to find it and afford it without crippling stress every single month.

People feel like that’s out of reach, even when they work hard and do everything right.

Right now, a quarter of renters are spending more than half their income on housing.

And seven out of the 10 fastest-growing jobs don’t pay enough for a two-bedroom apartment.

Housing is central to every aspect of families’ lives.

This housing crisis affects different families in different ways, but it touches pretty much everyone.

A safe, stable home is the foundation for opportunity. It determines where your kids go to school, how far you have to travel to get to work, where you can go shopping, and whether you feel safe walking around at night.

And we know where you live affects the quality of your health care, your education, your job opportunities – even your life expectancy.

Housing stress affects people with all kinds of jobs, in all parts of the country.

That’s why I’m holding roundtables all over Ohio, beginning over the past two weeks, to talk with Ohioans about their struggles with housing, and what we can do to make it easier for everyone to find and afford a home.

In Toledo and Youngstown, I heard from Ohioans about the challenges too many Ohioans face.

We heard about how interconnected housing is with so many other issues in families’ lives – wages that don’t keep up with the cost of living, how housing instability can affect your health,  and how hard it can be to get financing to buy a house or start a business in neighborhoods that have been left behind.

We heard about the power shady landlords have over tenants, and about predatory lease-to-own land contracts.

People also talked about how up-front costs aren’t just an issue for people trying to get a mortgage – to rent you often have to have the first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit, and that can be a huge obstacle.

Forty percent of Americans say they couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency. When it’s that hard for so many people to save, a deposit can seem impossible to come up with.

We also can’t untangle many of these issues from the legacy of redlining and decades of bad policy decisions by members of both parties, at all levels of government, that have systematically denied people of color the ability to choose where they live and build wealth through home ownership.

More than half of black and Latino renters are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, making them much more likely to have high housing cost burdens than white renters.

That means that black and Latino families have less to spend on healthcare and food and transportation.

And this isn’t just about differences in income, which are still all too real.

More than 50 years after we passed the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination in housing, African Americans make up 13 percent of the population and 21 percent of the people experiencing poverty in this country –but 40 percent of the people experiencing homelessness.

Think about that – 21 percent of people experiencing poverty, but 40 percent of the people experiencing homelessness. That tells you this isn’t just about income.

We see the same thing when we look at homeownership.

The African American homeownership rate is nearly 30 percentage points below the white homeownership rate.

Analysts have tried to explain this with income and education. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  Something more troubling is going on. 

With everything else being equal – similarly-situated African Americans are less likely to own a home than their white counterparts

That’s the legacy of redlining and racial exclusion at work.

From 1934 through 1962, 98 percent of all FHA mortgages went to white homeowners . 

This isn’t just a problem of the past – housing is how people build wealth across generations.

Yet with millions of families struggling to afford housing and massive disparities in housing access, this Administration is turning its back on families, communities, and communities of color.

For nearly three years, President Trump and his administration have been trying to undermine the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

That landmark civil rights law made discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing illegal for the first time, and was supposed to set us on a path to a country where everyone could find and afford a safe, stable home with access to opportunity.   

But instead of getting us closer to that goal, the Trump Administration is making things worse.

They’re trying to make it harder to root out policies and practices that have a hidden, discriminatory effect on people, by gutting the decades-old “Disparate Impact” standard.

And they’re rolling back the 2015 HUD rule that would have finally implemented the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that we “affirmatively further” fair housing throughout our communities. 

And President Trump’s budget will only make the affordable housing crisis worse for families struggling in every community in this country. 

The Administration would eliminate funds communities use to create and preserve affordable housing and make homeownership possible for working families, like the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships program.

They want to cut the already insufficient federal rental assistance we have. And they want to get rid of funding for the Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund – even though this funding comes from the G-S-Es, not the federal budget – to make it still harder to build houses and apartments people can actually afford. 

To add insult to injury, the Trump Administration proposed to make mortgages more expensive for working families, to both reduce the deficit they created with the 2017 tax giveaway and to supposedly “level the playing field” for Wall Street.

We need to fight back. Any economic policy that doesn’t put housing front and center is ignoring families’ biggest expense and biggest need.

When we see housing problems in rural areas, in big coastal cities, in small towns, all over the country, it’s clear – this is a national problem that needs a national response.

I’m going to keep hosting roundtables around Ohio to hear directly from Ohioans about the struggles they face.

And I’m also inviting Ohioans – go to my website, brown.senate.gov, and share your housing story.

We need to hear your struggles, and your ideas.

Congress cannot ignore these challenges, and we can’t just let the Trump Administration gut the tools we have to make people’s lives better, whether they’re in small towns or big cities.

If we want to make the economy work better for everyone, we cannot shrink from these challenges. When work has dignity, everyone can find and afford a place to call home.

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