I’m a strong supporter of the work that Habitat for Humanity and their 55 affiliates do across Ohio. Habitat provides about 5,000 homeownership opportunities to low-income American families every year, and, in total, have built about 4,000 homes in Ohio.
I’ve volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for a long time now. Every year on my birthday I give myself a present, which is to take part in a build. I’ve seen firsthand how Habitat has helped people in need across our state.
On my most recent birthday, I was rehabilitating homes in the Price Hill neighborhood in Cincinnati. Over the past year, I have worked alongside the owner-families and volunteers at a Habitat build in the Cleveland’s Buckeye neighborhood.
I was the honorary chair of that build that helped 17 families get a better roof over their heads. Because of an outpouring of generosity of more than 200 volunteers and the support of Ohio companies like Owens Corning, Ernst & Young, and Thrivent Financial, we were able to revitalize an entire block of Grandview Avenue, rebuilding two homes and making improvements like new roofs or new attic insulation to 15 others. That investment—worth $250,000—will leave an enduring positive impact on a? historic neighborhood. In just the last 25 years, Habitat has built more than 180 new homes in Cleveland, an investment worth a total of about $3.6 million.
A survey from Habitat says that the families they help report better health and see their kids’ grades go up. More than 90 percent feel safe and more than 80 percent say they feel connected with the community. That’s the kind of impact that affordable housing can have.
To make Habitat’s job easier, I introduced bipartisan legislation this week to let organizations like Habitat receive mortgage appraisals as a charitable donation, as was traditionally done before the Dodd-Frank financial regulations were put in place several years ago. Dodd-Frank regulations are unclear, but they have been interpreted to require Habitat to pay market rate for these appraisals, even when the appraisers want to donate their services to Habitat. This takes valuable resources away from Habitat, making it harder for them to help people and reducing their impact on our communities. This law doesn’t make sense and should change. My bill would clarify that organizations like Habitat can continue to receive donated appraisals, which could save Habitat more than $1.2 million a year.
Passing my legislation for Habitat would be a step in the right direction toward the goal of creating more affordable housing options.
According to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half a million of our fellow Americans are homeless at any given time, and about 77,000 Americans are chronically homeless.
Even many of those who do have housing are living in unsafe or deteriorating conditions, and about 400,000 Ohio families are paying a majority of their income in rent.
It is in all of our interests to help people afford proper housing. Helping them makes our neighborhoods safer, increases property values, and creates more and better economic opportunity.
That’s why I’m also a strong supporter of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which provides tax relief to real estate developers in exchange for providing affordable housing for low-income families. This tax credit has a big impact on Ohio. Over the past 30 years, more than 100,000 Ohio homes have been developed or rehabilitated and a quarter of a million Ohio families have been provided with affordable homes because of it.
I’ve sponsored legislation to expand the tax credit that would provide for an additional 12,000 units of affordable housing in Ohio. And with about 2.5 million Ohioans eligible for this affordable housing, this legislation is badly needed.
We can also help those vulnerable to homelessness by giving our economy a shot in the arm with pro-growth policies. Getting our economy moving will create more jobs with better wages. Combined with bringing down the cost of living—including health care costs—that will help more families afford housing.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator and guest columnist.