Right now, many Ohioans are struggling to make ends meet. Even people with supposedly-middle-class jobs don’t feel stable. Wages have barely budged, and the cost of everything is up – higher education, health care, child care, and – critically — housing. We are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis in Ohio, and across the country.

I see it when I drive past the boarded up houses that belonged to the victims of predatory lending in my neighborhood of Slavic Village, and so many like it across the country. I also see it when I talk to young people in their 20s and 30s who want to buy a home, but who are drowning in student loan debt and can’t save enough for a down payment, or afford a mortgage.

We need a housing system that works for everyone, whether they’re renting or want to buy a home – no matter who they are, what kind of work they do, or where they live. That means a serious investment in housing, and in communities systematically excluded for too long. It also means cracking down on discrimination – not looking the other way.

As Ranking Member of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, I understand that historically, we have not paid nearly enough attention to the “housing” part of that title. I’m working to change that. Any economic policy that doesn’t put housing front and center is ignoring families’ biggest expense and biggest need.

That’s why I’m asking Ohioans to share their stories with me.

I want to hear about the obstacles they may face, and their ideas for how we can make it easier for everyone to find and afford a safe, stable home.

Ohioans can visit my website at brown.senate.gov to share their stories and ideas. In the coming months, I’ll also be hosting roundtables around Ohio to hear directly from Ohioans.

We need to hear these stories, because the best ideas don’t come from Washington, they come out of conversations from Ohioans across our state. I’m looking forward to the conversations in the days and weeks ahead as we work to turn these experiences into policy ideas that help Ohio workers and Ohio families.

Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is the senior U.S. Senator from Ohio.

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