Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) has drafted a proposal to turn a vacant residence hall into “affordable housing” for members of Congress who make at least $174,000 a year.
According to the New York Post, the targeted government-owned two-story brick building was built in the 1940s and sits among expensive townhouses in a pricey neighborhood.
It was most recently used to house high school students who worked as House pages until the program was shut down in 2011.
Now, Thompson is proposing to convert it into a dormitory of sorts for congressional members who have found the cost of having a second home in Washington, D.C., to be too high of a price.
“It can be the affordable-housing-availability option,” he told the New York Post.
However, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.), who sleeps on a cot in his office when he’s in D.C., disagreed with spending taxpayer money on it given that the national debt is over $20 trillion. He added:
“Sleeping in my office isn’t very comfortable, but it’s my choice to save for my daughter’s college instead of spending money on a D.C. apartment. I’m here to work, not relive my college days in a taxpayer-funded dorm.”
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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) also criticized the proposal on the basis that congressional members can afford to pay rent, whereas people just starting out in D.C. cannot.
“If we are going to use that facility for anyone’s more affordable housing options, it should be for interns, for young people, to introduce them to the process,” she explained.
The head of product design at CQ Roll Call, Patrick Thornton, used the proposal to highlight the plight of outrageous housing prices on average Americans.
If members of Congress, who make over $100,000, are sleeping on their office couches, he wrote on Twitter, “imagine trying to afford housing as a regular citizen.”
All joking aside, housing has gotten so unaffordable that members of Congress — who make at least $174,000 a year and often come in with a bit of wealth — are sleeping on their couches in their offices.
Imagine trying to afford housing as a regular citizen.
— Patrick Thornton (@pwthornton) May 14, 2018
This isn’t the first time a solution to the strain of housing prices on Congress members has been addressed. In June 2017, then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) proposed giving legislators a $2,500 per month stipend for housing.
The Hill reported he called it “appropriate,” and “a real help” in providing legislators with “at least a decent quality of life” in D.C.
— Oliver McGee PhD MBA (@OliverMcGee) June 29, 2017
According to the Congressional Research Service, most senators and representatives earn $174,000.
The president pro tempore of the Senate, as well as the majority and minority House and Senate leaders, earn $193,400, and the speaker of the House earns $223,500.
Congressional members are able to earn an additional $27,495 in income outside of their salary as well.
The New York Post reported that while Thompson is advocating to create taxpayer-funded housing for congressional members, D.C. has an estimated homeless population of 6,904 people.
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