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Jayapal, Meng Introduce Legislation to Reduce Homelessness

Transformative legislation provides more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure while increasing affordable housing and reducing homelessness

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Grace Meng (NY-06) led lawmakers today in introducing the Housing is a Human Right Act, transformative legislation to authorize more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure while reducing homelessness across America. This urgent proposal invests more than $200 billion in necessary affordable housing and support services and provides $27 billion a year for homelessness services, $100 million a year for community-driven alternatives to criminalization of those experiencing homelessness, and makes targeted investments in communities at disproportionate risk of homelessness. 

“Experiencing homelessness is not a failure of individuals, but a structural failure of a country that has refused to make safe and affordable housing a priority,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “The crisis of housing instability is one that can be fixed by investing in housing infrastructure and supportive services for vulnerable communities. And in the richest country in the world, it is a moral imperative that we take this issue head-on. Housing is a human right – and every person deserves to have a safe place to call home.”

“Housing is a Human Right, and nobody in the world should be without a place to call home, especially not in America,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “That is why I am proud to reintroduce this legislation that invests billions of dollars with the goal of wiping out homelessness across our nation. This is an issue that impacts individuals for a number of reasons and sometimes isn’t fixed with just a physical roof above a person’s head. The bill addresses the issue at the root, and while providing funds for affordable housing, it also provides supportive services and invests in communities that are disproportionately at risk for homelessness.”

Rising rates of inflation have put a massive strain on renters, with the average rent increasing between February 2021 and February 2023 by more than 18 percent. As inflation has risen, so have homelessness rates. Across the United States, more than half a million people experienced homelessness in 2022, an increase of 3 percent from 2020. Additionally, as costs have risen and the minimum wage has stagnated, it would take the average minimum wage worker more than 96 hours of work per week to afford a two-bedroom rental.

This is particularly true in Washington state, which had the fourth-highest number of homeless individuals in 2022, and only New York City and Los Angeles had higher total homeless populations than King County – where tragically, a record 250 people experiencing homelessness died. The more than 25,000 homeless represent a 10 percent increase from 2020.

Lacking housing often leads to penalization, interactions with law enforcement, and entering the justice system. It also makes it difficult to seek or hold a job, obtain assistance with accessing resources, find safe housing, and receive regular care for health needs. In fact, the harsh conditions of unsheltered homelessness leads to a mortality rate that is four to nine times higher than that of the general public. Additionally, some groups are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness — including communities of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, former foster youth, and justice system-involved people. While Black communities make up 13 percent of the general population, they comprise 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness and half of all homeless families.

The Housing is a Human Right Act will address this cruel and inequitable reality by:

  • Investing up to $100 billion for McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and $100 billion for Continuum of Care (COC) grants.
  • Creating a new grant program to invest in humane infrastructure; providing municipalities with $6 billion a year through a flexible program that will allow them to address their most urgent housing needs to keep people in stable housing and support those experiencing homelessness. 
  • Incentivizing local investments in humane, evidence-based models to support people experiencing homelessness, including alternatives to criminalization and penalization.
  • Providing $10 billion for FEMA emergency food and shelter grants while improving grants to better represent high rates of homelessness and income inequality.
  • Authorizing $100 million in grants to public libraries to provide assistance and tailored supports to persons experiencing homelessness

The Housing is a Human Right Act is co-sponsored by Representatives Grace Meng (NY-06), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Cori Bush (MO-01), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Judy Chu (CA-28), Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), James McGovern (MA-02), Raul Grijalva (NM-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (NY-14), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).