Q&A with California Congresswoman Anna A. Eshoo
July 31, 2023
Throughout her tenure in Congress, Representative Anna Eshoo has been a tireless advocate for expanding affordable housing options in the state of California. Her commitment to secure federal funding for affordable housing programs, promote fair housing practices and support initiatives that empower low-income families and individuals has made a significant impact.
Given the ongoing affordable housing crisis in the Bay Area, Congresswoman Eshoo understands the need for collaboration among federal, state and local governments; nonprofit organizations; and the private sector. Her support extends to key federal programs, such as the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $25 billion for rental assistance and $10 billion for mortgage assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding has been instrumental in helping struggling renters and homeowners avoid eviction and foreclosure. Additionally, she has been a leading voice in introducing the Housing Access Improvement Act, which aims to increase from 20% to 50% the amount of funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program that a public housing agency (PHA) may use for project-based vouchers, making housing more accessible and incentivizing the construction of new affordable housing.
We had the privilege of connecting with Congresswoman Eshoo to discuss her impactful initiatives, legislative accomplishments and ongoing efforts to address California’s housing crisis.
California has a substantial housing challenge. Can you talk about the federal funding programs that help the state create and preserve affordable housing?
Silicon Valley is becoming a region where only the wealthiest can afford to live. Rising housing costs continue to force more and more middle- and working-class residents to leave the area in search of affordable housing, and this is unacceptable.
Solutions to address the affordable housing crisis must come from a partnership of federal, state and local governments working in cooperation with nonprofits and the private sector. The most important role for Congress to play is to provide robust federal funding to help develop new affordable housing in the Bay Area and protect existing affordable housing. This includes programs such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); the HOME Investment Partnership Program; NeighborWorks; Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing; and Section 8 Vouchers. I’ve always been a strong supporter of these programs and continue to fight to ensure they receive the highest amount of funding possible.
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is particularly important. Some of the newest affordable housing developments in my Congressional District, La Avenida Apartments (Eden Housing) in Mountain View and Wilton Court in Palo Alto, would not have been built were it not for financing with $25 million and $16.5 million in federal tax credits respectively.
Tell us about the American Rescue Plan Act and how it helped both low-income families and housing providers.
In March 2021, I voted for the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to help meet the great needs of my constituents and all Americans during the pandemic. Millions of families were struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, and this law included $25 billion for rental assistance and $10 billion for mortgage assistance. These funds ensured renters and homeowners could make payments on time and avoid eviction and foreclosure without shifting the cost burden to housing providers. The bill also included substantial funding for programs to assist low-income renters and people experiencing homelessness, including $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program and $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers.
Over the years, you have helped secure funding for many projects throughout California. What are some of the projects you are most proud of supporting and why?
I’ve been a strong supporter of affordable housing in the Bay Area since my service on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. I’m especially proud of Moonridge, an affordable community for 160 very low-income farmworker families in Half Moon Bay which I initiated during my service on the Board of Supervisors.
More recently, I’m proud to have secured $1.5 million for affordable housing projects in my Congressional District, including $750,000 for the Sure Stay Hotel in San Jose to provide transitional housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, and $750,000 to acquire, rehabilitate, and convert the 67-unit Crestview Hotel in Mountain View into permanent supportive housing. These projects will increase our affordable housing supply and work to alleviate the current housing crisis.
Where do you see opportunities in the current Congress to address homelessness and affordable housing moving forward? The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act is an important tool for expanding the low-income housing tax credit program, is there a way to move that forward?
I’m a cosponsor of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act which will allow new housing projects in California and our Congressional District to access the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit which can create 2 million new units of affordable housing nationally over the next decade. I continue to do everything I can to see that this important legislation becomes law. My other top priority is to protect existing affordable housing programs from harmful budget cuts.