Outgoing Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz believes American taxpayers should provide a $30,000 annual subsidy to the 535 members of Congress so that lawmakers can better afford to live in one of the nation’s most expensive cities.
Congressmen currently earn $174,000 a year, or about $120,000 more than the average American household. Chaffetz, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the week and may join Fox News, pegged the desired stipend at $2,500 a month.
“Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world, and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college and a second place here in Washington, D.C.,” Chaffetz said in an interview with The Hill. “I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you’re going to expect people to spend hundreds of nights a year here.” Chaffetz said having a nicer place in D.C. would mean spending fewer taxpayer dollars on airplane tickets back to Utah on weekends.
Median rent in the Washington D.C. area costs $2,100, according to Trulia, while Zillow puts the average home price in Provo, Utah, which is a part of Chaffetz’s district, at $220,000. The combined monthly expense of an average apartment in D.C. and a 30-year mortgage in Provo with a 4.5% interest rate, would cost more than $3,100, or about 21% of Chaffetz’s monthly salary. That’s lower than the housing-to-income ratio that financial planners generally recommend, which is 25%.
Chaffetz’s comments are likely to cause outrage given the dearth of affordable housing available to Americans across the country.
While home prices continue to trend upward after bottoming out at five and a half years ago, the inventory of available homes remains stunted. This has caused many homeowners to stay in their starter homes longer than anticipated and excluded many potential first-time homebuyers from entering the market at all.
Chaffetz is not a stranger to controversial comments.
“You know what, Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice,” Chaffetz told CNN’s New Day as the House of Representatives was debating the American Health Care Act. “And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.”