ICYMI: Sullivan Highlights Bill to Help Fix Housing Crisis for Low- and Middle-Income Alaskans & Americans

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) spoke on the Senate floor yesterday about the housing crisis in Alaska and across the country, emphasizing the importance of expanding low- and middle-income housing in rural and urban communities. Sen. Sullivan last week introduced the Workforce Housing Tax Credit (WHTC) Act with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to increase the supply of affordable housing for families by broadening a tried-and-true federal tax incentive program—the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)—to include rental housing for middle-income earners. This will catalyze the private sector to build more affordable housing for those who earn too much to qualify for low-income affordable housing and not enough to afford housing near where they work. U.S. Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Mike Carey (R-Ohio) introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Everywhere I travel in the great state of Alaska, I hear from Alaskans reeling from the scarcity of housing…Teachers, law enforcement, first responders, nurses, health care officials, electricians—the backbones of so many communities—are priced out of the market to buy a home,” Sen. Sullivan said. “Expanding the low-income housing credit will help address the core issues of not just homelessness and overcrowding, particularly in rural Alaska, but it will also empower hard-working Alaskans to stay in our communities and build a more robust workforce.”

See the full transcript of Sen. Sullivan’s remarks below.

Mr. President, I want to begin by offering my sincere thanks to the chairman of the Finance Committee, my friend, Senator Wyden of Oregon. I'm honored to be on the floor with him today to talk about these housing issues and this really important bill, the Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act, which is, as he already mentioned, bipartisan and bicameral.

Now, as Senator Wyden already mentioned, our country is facing a lot of challenges right now. Inflation, fentanyl coming through our borders, national security threats all over the place and overseas. But it's very obvious-- anyone reading the paper knows that we're also experiencing in rural and urban America a severe housing crisis. Everywhere I travel in the great state of Alaska, I hear from Alaskans reeling from the scarcity of housing.

And it is everywhere. Anchorage, Fairbanks, Sitka, Ketchikan, Kodiak. Every single small rural village in my state. It’s everywhere, Mr. President, and I know it's a big challenge in Oregon. It's a big challenge all over the country, and it's a challenge that impacts low and middle income families. It stands as a stark obstacle to getting and keeping jobs, to having a family, to building communities.

This is really foundational stuff in terms of what matters in communities: Housing. Solving this challenge has been one of my top priorities, and I really want to thank Senator Wyden and his team on being so patient and working with us, he’s a real good partner here. This is going to take all kinds of solutions. There's no silver bullet here.

It's going to take everybody pulling on the same oar-- the Feds, state, private sector, tribes, nonprofits. But this is an important start. And, Mr. President, I actually hosted the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia Fudge, in Alaska this past August. We held a roundtable and some meetings on urban housing issues, on rural housing issues, it was very well attended.

I want to thank all the Alaskans who took part. They weren't shy with Secretary Fudge. She got an earful. And there's a whole host of things we're going to follow up on with her-- challenges dealing with overregulation from HUD, homelessness definitions, housing formulas for cities. But it was progress, getting her up to Alaska.

And so this is progress. Mr. President. This is progress. What Senator Wyden and I have introduced is an exciting and creative bill that will broaden a tried and true federal tax incentive program, the low income housing tax credit. This all started during the 1980s, during the Reagan Administration. It's market based, it’s private sector focused, it's a proven, successful formula that will help catalyze the private sector to build more housing in urban and rural areas for working families.

That's why we actually named it the Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act. Teachers, law enforcement, first responders, nurses, health care officials, electricians-- the backbones of so many communities-- are right now priced out of the market to buy a home. Expanding low income housing credit will help address the core issues of not just homelessness and overcrowding in many places in Alaska, particularly rural Alaska, but it will empower hard-working Alaskans to stay in our communities and build a more robust workforce.

Now, Mr. President, sometimes when you bring legislation down on the Senate floor, you're not sure who's going to support it. Well, I am very proud to say that back home in Alaska, this bill has enormous support-- liberals, conservatives, mayors, our governor, the mayor of Anchorage, our biggest city, the chair of the Anchorage Assembly.

I know these guys really well. They don't actually get along on much, but they support this bill. We have tribal groups, we have private sector groups, we have homebuilder groups. It is a super big list. And I think that's the signal for Senator Wyden and I that we're on to something here. We're on to something here. If there aren't homes in communities for hard working families, then entire communities are shut off for growth.

Housing is a catalyst for community and economic development and good jobs and pride in where you live. This bill offers one solution that will actually lead to construction of these kind of housing developments. How do I know that? How can I say that? Because as the chairman of the Finance Committee already said, we know this works.

The low income tax credit already works. We know that. And we're building on that program in the best way to ensure that the private sector will actually use this program to break open other bottlenecks for economic development. So importantly, Mr. President, this bill provides flexibilities to states and developers to decide what's best for their communities, not a one-size-fits-all Washington mandate. We don't like those in Alaska.

So, as I mentioned, this bill has broad support-- bipartisan, bicameral. And once again, to my friend from Oregon, I really want to thank Senator Wyden. He was very patient with me and my team. We had a number of edits trying to make sure this would work for America and Alaska. Sometimes my state has some really unique challenges and he accommodated so much and was very patient with us.

You can tell from the reaction of this broad based group of stakeholders back home in my state, this has a lot of support. So thank you, Senator Wyden again. I look forward to working with you and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle getting this over the goal line and addressing one of the big challenges in America that I think impacts every state in the country. And this is a way one of the many tools we will use to help address it.

I yield the floor.