With the cost of housing continuing to rise in California and across the country, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris has introduced legislation to provide rent relief for working families struggling to pay their bills.
The Rent Relief Act would create a new, refundable tax credit to put more money in the pockets of families at a time when renters’ wages have remained stagnant and housing costs have increased rapidly. Kamala Harris was joined in the introduction by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
“America’s affordable housing crisis has left too many families behind who struggle each month to keep a roof over their head,” said Senator Harris. “This bill will ensure no family is priced out of the basic security of a place to live. Bolstering the economic security of working families would strengthen our country and increase opportunity.”
“The lack of affordable housing is a national emergency,” said Matthew Desmond, Author of “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. “Senator Harris is bringing heightened awareness to a crisis that’s been ignored for far too long. The Rent Relief Act reflects a strong commitment to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe and affordable home.”
A report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition illustrates that there is a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental units for America’s 11.4 million extremely low-income families. According to California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, nearly one-third of California renters (3 million California households) are rent burdened, and California has the third highest rents in the country.
More than 1.5 million households are severely rent burdened and more Americans than ever are renters. The share of US households that were renters climbed to 35 percent in 2012, up from 31 percent in 2004.
Under Harris’ Rent Relief Act, the refundable tax credit will be available to individuals who live in rental housing and pay more than 30 percent of their gross income for the taxable year on their rent including utilities.
Eligible individuals would qualify for the tax benefit by determining the total amount spent yearly on rent, taking into account the family’s annual income, and a rate of the federal government’s established fair market rent controls.
Individuals who live in government-subsidized rental housing could claim the value of one month’s rent as a refundable tax credit. Subsidized rent is normally capped at 30 percent of a person’s income, making them eligible for the tax benefit for rent-burdened residents. The Rent Relief Act would give much-needed relief to lower income residents.
The Rent Relief Act is supported by: the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Fair Housing of California, and the National Housing Law Project