Eden Updates, Policy Updates

Q&A with Congressman Jimmy Panetta

March 28, 2024

Congressman Jimmy Panetta has long been a champion of housing, playing a key role in introducing multiple pieces of legislation with the aim to reduce its cost. But he shows his support through more than his policies as a welcome visitor to numerous affordable housing developments, where he aims to get to know the residents in his districts in person.

Representative Panetta was first elected to Congress in 2016 and currently serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, the House Committee on Armed Services and House Committee on the Budget. In addition, he also serves as a Chief Deputy Whip in the 118th Congress.

During his tenure in Congress, in addition to affordable housing, he has advocated for immigration reform, accessible healthcare, our agriculture industry and its farmers and farmworkers, the reduction of gun violence, a fairer tax code and major infrastructure investment, among others. 

Prior to Congress, Representative Panetta was a prosecutor in Monterey and Alameda counties and served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. His experience serving his country led him to serve as a board member of the Veterans Transition Center, help open Monterey County’s first Veterans Treatment Court and assist in establishing the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery on the former site of Fort Ord. 

Congressman Panetta celebrating NNO at Ohlone Chynoweth Commons

We had the privilege of hearing from Representative Panetta regarding the recent bipartisan tax package that included affordable housing, his approach to the current housing crisis and his hopes for Congress to support this great need.

As one of the only California members on the influential House Ways & Means Committee, you played an important role in ensuring affordable housing was included in the $78 billion bipartisan tax package approved by 357-70 by the House in February. A tax package always requires hard choices; how did you convince such a large, bipartisan group of members to include affordable housing in this bill?

With the bipartisan Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act, we were able to find common ground and compromise on a piece of legislation that not only would incentivize the development of more affordable housing around the country, but also provide tax credits for childcare, immediate expensing for small businesses’ investments in research and development, and tax-free settlements for natural disasters.  The bill would create commonsense solutions for kitchen table issues that are being felt by families in congressional districts, Republican and Democratic, throughout our nation.  The affordable housing crisis is an issue that is now being felt beyond our coasts and extends well into the center of our country.  The scale of the challenge of housing affordability moved Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to include the expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).  I’m proud that we were able to come together and do our job by working on and passing this bipartisan bill.  Now it’s time for the Senate to do the same.

The two housing provisions included in the House bill could help finance an estimated 200,000 additional affordable homes—by restoring an expanded tax credit allocation that expired in 2021 and lowering the threshold of private activity bonds needed to access tax credits. How receptive are your colleagues in the Senate to these ideas—and do you believe the Senate will approve the bill?

Just like the House, the Senate has a coalition of leaders who want to address the housing crisis by significantly expanding affordable housing in our country.  The legislation that we voted on in the House was a product of negotiations between Chairman Jason Smith of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, and is indicative of the bipartisan support in Congress to increase affordable housing.  However, what we are seeing now is that there is apparently opposition in the Senate that is based on politics, rather than on creating sound policy for the people.  All of us now must keep the pressure on the Senate to take up and pass this legislation that would not only directly impact the lives and livelihoods of my constituents in California’s 19th Congressional District, but also people across America.

You have been a longtime champion of affordable housing in your Monterey district and have always supported Eden projects from Santa Cruz to Pajaro. After redistricting, the lines of your district have shifted to include parts of the Bay Area as well, including Eden properties in Santa Clara. Has your new district changed your approach to affordable housing at all?

No. As a U.S. Representative, my role is to ensure that the federal government plays its part to increase affordable housing in California’s 19th Congressional District.  From South San Jose to Santa Cruz and from Monterey to Paso Robles, affordable housing is the number one issue facing my constituents. The high home prices, high rents, and low housing stock make it tough to own and live in, what in my biased opinion is, the most beautiful congressional district in the nation.  That is why my priority in the U.S. Congress is to help make housing affordable with legislation that I authored and introduced to increase supply with low-income and workforce housing tax credits, incentivize home ownership with a first-time homeowners tax credit, increase the amount homes on the market by doubling the capital gains tax exemption, and better assist our renters with a federal tax credit.  I also will continue to work with community partners, like Eden Housing, to fight for and secure critical federal funding for housing programs, which can help increase opportunities for my constituents to access affordable housing.

What else do you hope Congress can do this year to support affordable housing in California? One bill you’ve introduced, H.R.6686, would expand the tax credit system used to build housing for low-income households—by creating a similar system for middle-income families, as well. What are your plans for this legislation?

In the 19th Congressional District, many working families earn living wages but make too much to qualify for low-income housing and too little to afford to buy a home in this area.  I was proud to author and introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation alongside Representative Mike Carey and Senators Ron Wyden and Dan Sullivan that would address that gap by incentivizing investment in the development of middle-income housing for middle-income families.  The Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act would help ensure that middle-income working families spend time in our communities rather than spend time in their commute. And ensure that people who work here can afford to live here, and call California’s 19th Congressional District home.  With support from leaders in both chambers and across the aisle, I am hopeful that we can make progress on this issue this Congress.

Congress has obviously been a difficult place to get things done in recent years. How hopeful are you that, in the midst of an acrimonious election season, both the House and Senate will do what needs to be done to support affordable housing and the millions of lower-income households that depend on it?

Despite the craziness in Congress that gets highlighted in the news, people need to know that there are many members in both political parties who are there to legislate and make the federal government work for the people that they serve.  I believe in Congress’ ability to come together and get stuff done because I have seen firsthand the creation and passage of impactful and meaningful legislation to affect people’s lives and livelihoods.  The issue of affordable housing doesn’t just span California’s diverse, dynamic, and very large 19th Congressional District.  This is a nationwide issue, that calls for the federal government to step up, play its part, and really work with our local partners to compromise on solutions to rapidly expand affordable housing.  That is why I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle, as well as listen to and work with my constituents, who are willing to help solve the affordable housing crisis by doing what we were elected to do and govern.