The Inland Empire was hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis. Although recent trends show that the number of foreclosures is dropping and home prices are beginning to rise, the federal government can do more to keep people in their homes and ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable housing.
Rent on the Rise in Riverside
In response to stories I’ve heard from constituents about rising rental prices and incomes that aren’t keeping pace, my staff looked at Census data from the Inland Empire to get a better picture of the forces at work in our region. We found that one in three renters in the Inland Empire is spending more than fifty percent of their income on rent. While these numbers have risen, the median income in our area is still more than $5,000 below its 2007 level. Families in the Inland Empire are feeling the burden and forced to spend less on other necessities, including food, clothing, transportation, medical care, or saving for retirement.
There are a number of factors contributing to this rise, including a growing Inland Empire population, an overall shortage of housing stock, and a recovering housing market being driven by investors, not homeowners. These investors present additional challenges to the rental market, including a lack of competition for rental prices, lowered housing availability, and potentially undermining the recovery of the housing market by creating new and risky financial products backed by renters who are being pushed beyond their financial limits. To help address these issues, I believe that Congress must offer proper oversight of these new financial products, and restore funding to programs that provide housing assistance, housing counseling, and help to end homelessness for veterans.
Assisting Homeowners and Fighting Foreclosure
Homeownership is a powerful economic stimulus that benefits our neighborhoods and helps children excel. Studies show that children living in owned homes do better in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and are more likely to succeed in the workplace. Homeownership also benefits local communities by encouraging civic engagement and strengthening neighborhood stability. As your Representative, I will support efforts to help working families on the path to owning their own home. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insures loans made by private lenders, making it easier for more borrowers to obtain a mortgage. Other tax incentives, like the home mortgage interest deduction, help defer the cost of owning a home.
The mortgage crisis and the economic downturn have left thousands of families in our region struggling to stay in their homes. I support reforms that help homeowners refinance their mortgages and make the foreclosure process more consumer-friendly. We must stop the practice of robo-signing by big banks and improve resources for homeowners that find themselves underwater in their loans.
It’s a challenge to find affordable housing, especially in California. More than eighteen million households across the nation are severely burdened by their housing costs, and spend more than fifty percent of their income on housing costs. This is a particular concern in our region, where large investors purchased hundreds of homes after the housing market collapse and have begun renting them to local families. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees several programs, including rental assistance vouchers, which help low-income families afford the cost of housing. These vouchers serve more than four million households, with more than half of them headed by single women with children. While HUD programs can be a lifeline to many families, the number of vouchers doesn’t meet the demand and thousands are left on long wait lists. In Riverside County alone, 20,000 families are on the waiting list for rental assistance and the waiting list is currently closed. As a Member of Congress, it is my goal to strengthen and improve rental assistance programs at HUD, help families find safe and affordable housing, and put them on the path to self-sufficiency. For local housing resources, please visit http://www.riversideca.gov/housing/
Too many people are homeless in the United States. We are one of the world’s wealthiest nations and yet many of our citizens are unable to find safe, affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development distributes grants to local communities to help provide permanent housing, transitional housing, emergency shelter, and support services for the homeless. However, grants alone are not enough to tackle this problem. We must address the underlying causes of homelessness. Poverty, unemployment, reductions in the social safety net, a lack affordable housing, mental illness, and addiction all contribute to our growing homeless population.
As a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I’m particularly concerned about the high number homeless veterans. In 2010, more than 144,000 veterans were homeless at some point during the year. I will support partnerships between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs that provide health care and affordable housing vouchers to the men and women who have served in our armed forces. I will work with my colleagues to increase investment in programs that help transition people into housing and offer a wide array of support services so they can find permanent housing.
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