Tester Talks Affordable Housing for Montana Workers, Tribes with Housing Secretary Nominee Marcia Fudge

Senator: “Do what you can do to break down the silos in the housing arena…because I think that’s one of the boat anchors on our economy”

During a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing earlier today, U.S. Senator Jon Tester spoke with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge-President Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD)-on the severe lack of affordable housing for Montana workers and Tribal communities.

During her confirmation hearing, Tester and Congresswoman Fudge talked about the high demand for housing in Montana and how Congress and HUD must work collaboratively to break down barriers preventing affordable accommodations from being built or maintained. Tester highlighted that the current housing crisis is dragging down the U.S. economy, and emphasized the critical need to expand affordable workforce housing in states like Montana.

“You know very well as a Congressperson that Congress isn’t really renowned for getting things done,” said Tester. “I think you’re right, Congress does need to act, but I would appreciate if you can do what you can do to break down the silos in the housing arena in particular [if you’re confirmed], because I think that’s one of the boat anchors on our economy.”

Tester also requested that, if confirmed, Congresswoman Fudge work closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to address the enormous shortages of housing in Indian Country where Native Americans are significantly more likely to face homelessness, overcrowding, and poor housing conditions.

“I would hope that you have, if you’re confirmed, somebody in HUD who is able to deal with the myriad of programs that impact Indian housing, because it’s incredibly deficient,” said Tester. “…I hope that you have somebody in your agency that’s willing to work with the BIA to make sure that we get some housing built in Indian Country, because quite frankly, it’s massively deficient. You don’t need to respond to that, just do it if you’re confirmed.”

Currently, about 90,000 Native American families are homeless or under-housed. A 2013 National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) report found that 40 percent of on-reservation housing is substandard, compared to 6 percent of all off-reservation housing in the United States. NAIHC also found that nearly one-third of reservation homes are overcrowded, less than half are connected to public sewer systems, and 16 percent lack indoor plumbing. In 2017, HUD documented a need of at least 68,000 new units in Indian Country to address the high percentage of substandard homes and the overcrowded living conditions in Native communities.

At today’s hearing, Tester also spoke with Cecilia Rouse-President Biden’s nominee to be Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors-on how she would use the position to help the American economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Tester and Rouse agreed that the best route to reopening the economy is to provide targeted support to small businesses, households, and state and local governments; as well as making smart investments into programs that have high economic return such as infrastructure, research and development, and education.

Tester has been working closely with Montanans to combat the affordable housing crisis across the state. He recently held a Housing Summit to gather ideas and suggestions from stakeholders and constituents on how to address the growing housing crisis, and has fought for substantial investments into affordable housing initiatives including the HOME and Community Development Block Grant programs. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he secured $3.3. million to support housing, public health, coronavirus response, and economic disruption needs.

Watch Tester’s full questioning of Marcia Fudge and Cecilia Rouse HERE.