By Bill Parry
As more families are in danger of becoming homeless due to rising rents and stagnant wages in New York City, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) believes renters need tax breaks that could help low- and middle-income tenants across the country stay in their homes.
In New York City, nearly two-thirds of all households are occupied by renters — twice the national average, and more than half of all renters are considered to be “rent-burdened,” making it difficult for families to make ends meet or save for college and retirement.
Crowley came to the Woodside Houses Monday and announced his Rent Relief Act — federal legislation that would provide two new refundable tax credits to people who live in rental housing.
“The lack of rental affordability isn’t just hurting the working poor — it’s a serious burden on hardworking, middle-class families, too,” Crowley said. “Unfortunately, the demand for rental housing continues to outpace supply, and while all signs point to higher rents in the future, wages remain stagnant. Just as the tax code has helped make home ownership more affordable, I believe Congress must provide relief to the growing number of renters who are feeling squeezed, financially. That’s why I’m introducing the Rent Relief Act.”
Under Crowley’s bill, qualified individuals who live in rental housing as their primary residence and pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent would be eligible for a refundable tax credit determined by taking into account the household’s annual income, the total amount spent annually on rent, and a stimulated rate of the federal government’s established fair market annual rent caps. Individuals who live in government-subsidized rental housing could claim the value of one month’s rent as a refundable tax credit.
As subsidized housing rent is typically capped at 30 percent of a person’s income, making them ineligible for the tax credit for rent-burdened residents, this credit would give much-needed relief to lower-income residents.
“With stagnant pay and rising rents, New Yorkers are finding it more difficult to make it from month to month,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “This tax credit, spearheaded by Congressman Crowley, would be life-changing for millions of New Yorkers, bringing much-needed financial relief and a boost to our local businesses. Combined with continued efforts to preserve and expand affordable and public housing, the Rent Relief Act tax credit would help keep New York City a vibrant and inclusive place for all New Yorkers.”
Asked if legislation such as the Rent Relief Act could get through the gridlock in Congress, Crowley was hopeful, saying 111 million Americans, nearly a third of the population, live in rental housing.
“There is gridlock like I’ve never seen in Washington before,” Crowley said. “We need to start passing legislation that’s in the better interest of the American people and not just for the special interests in Washington. We need to look out for the interests of the working poor and the middle class of this country as well and that their needs and issues are paramount and should come first.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr