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Rep. Waters reintroduces bill to fully fund public housing

Serves to protect public housing as a "critical public asset"

House Democrats on the Financial Services Committee reintroduced legislation last week to preserve and fund the nation’s public housing stock.  

The bill, titled the “Public Housing Tenant Protection and Reinvestment Act Of 2017,” is designed to help the more than one million families who rely on public housing.

Led by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., ranking member of the Committee on Financial Services, the bill would “preserve public housing and transform extremely impoverished neighborhoods by authorizing full funding for the program plus additional funding to address the backlog of capital needs.”

Notably, the bill would require a one-for-one replacement in cases where public housing units are demolished or sold.

According to the bill’s summary,  “[It] requires the Secretary to approve applications for disposition only when the development, acquisition, or rehabilitation of other properties will be more efficiently or effectively operated as low income, very low income, and extremely low income families consistent with housing needs of the jurisdiction as well as public housing targeting requirements.”

Other key elements of the bill include:

  • Preserve public housing and transform extremely impoverished neighborhoods by authorizing full funding for the program plus additional funding to address the backlog of capital needs;
  • Provide a loan guarantee for public housing agencies to attract outside investment into public housing units;
  • Authorize a grant program that focuses on revitalizing the most distressed public housing units;
  • Increase tenant protections to help ensure that residents have the option to stay in the communities that they call home.

“We must renew our commitment to serving those most in need by fully funding the public housing program, implementing one-for-one replacement of each demolished public housing unit, and by providing the necessary financial tools to rehabilitate and preserve this important public asset,” said Waters. “Despite the hostile posture of the Administration toward important housing programs, I vow to continue the fight every day for vulnerable families.”

However, the bill will struggle to get off the ground if it doesn’t muster up any bipartisan support. The other cosponsors of the bill include: Reps. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., Al Green, D-Texas, Gwen Moore, D-Wis., Keith Ellison, D-Minn, and Juan Vargas, D-Calif.

And while it doesn’t have the support from Committee Republicans, housing groups were quick to welcome the act, with the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and the National Housing Law Project all supporting the bill.

“NLIHC applauds Representative Waters for reintroducing this critical piece of legislation to preserve public housing, transform neighborhoods, and protect tenant rights,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of NLIHC. “This bill will ensure public housing continues to serve as a bridge out of poverty for millions of people. We hope Congress acts quickly to enact these protections and ensure full-funding for public housing programs that will help families facing challenges obtain adequate and affordable housing.”

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