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GOP rep Jason Chaffetz: Members of Congress should get $30,000 a year to help them pay rent

The cost of housing has gotten so expensive that Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) thinks that a monthly subsidy of $2,500 from the Government is a good idea to help ease the burden — for members of Congress.

He told The Hill on Monday that "I really do believe Congress would be much better served if there was a housing allowance for members of Congress," given that "Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world." He said that "a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington."

$2,500 a month comes out to $30,000 a year. That would bring the annual Congressional salary, which is $174,000, to over $200,000. It would also cost taxpayers "roughly $16 million a year for all 535 members" of Congress, The Hill reports.

Washington, D.C., is indeed among America's costliest places to live, GOBankingRates finds, though it does not rank among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world. Housing there is 134.6 percent more expensive than the national average, transportation is 4.3 percent more expensive, and groceries are 17.4 percent more expensive.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) talks with reporters as he departs after a Republican caucus candidates' forum for the next House speaker, Washington, October 8, 2015.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) talks with reporters as he departs after a Republican caucus candidates' forum for the next House speaker, Washington, October 8, 2015.

The average home price in D.C. is $471,071, and the average monthly mortgage payment on a house there is $1,909. The average monthly rent is $2,127 which, though high compared to most places in America, is several hundred dollars less than the Congressman's subsidy request.

Back in 2009, Chaffetz was known for occasionally camping out in his office to save money. And, earlier this year, he provoked an outcry after saying that, under the GOP's proposed health-care plan, poorer Americans could somehow afford insurance by choosing to forgo new iPhones.

His request could come off as tone-deaf to some, given that so many Americans are struggling to afford the skyrocketing cost of housing without government help. And, as Time Money points out, even with his current situation, the Congressman is hardly strapped: "The combined monthly expense of an average apartment in D.C. and a 30-year mortgage in Provo with a 4.5 percent interest rate, would cost more than $3,100, or about 21 percent of Chaffetz's monthly salary. That's lower than the housing-to-income ratio that financial planners generally recommend, which is 25 percent."

In 2015, a record 11.8 million American households qualified as "severely rent-burdened," meaning that they were forced to spend 50 percent or more of their income on housing.

The timing also seems less than fortuitous, given that the Republicans in Congress are trying to pass a health care reform bill that reduces Medicaid for poor and middle-class Americans. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has found that "half of the tax cuts would go to families making more than $500,000 a year," while "the super rich, those making $5 million or more, would receive an average tax cut of nearly $250,000."

Chaffetz is only days away from stepping down on June 30, after which he will join Fox News as a contributor. As he tells The Hill, he is in search of "a better balance."

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