Politics & Money

Harris, Waters propose bill to invest $100 billion in affordable housing

Looks to address affordable housing crisis

Democrats introduced a new bill Thursday that will dedicate $100 billion to fighting the affordable housing crisis in the U.S.

The bill, Housing is Infrastructure Act, was introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

“Too many Americans are fighting tooth and nail to keep a roof over their heads as our nation continues to face a housing affordability and homelessness crisis,” Harris said. “It will take a comprehensive and serious investment to confront this issue head on, and the Housing is Infrastructure Act is our best chance to get it done.”

“I am proud to work with Chairwoman Waters on this bill, which would empower our local communities to make affordable housing available for all,” she continued. “Housing is a human right, and we must act now to tackle the affordable housing crisis and ensure everyone has a safe and accessible home.”

Waters explained the nation is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, and something must be done to fix it.

“We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis across the country, caused in part by the lack of affordable and available rental units, rising rents, gentrification and dilapidated public housing,” Waters said. “For example, 10,000 units of public housing are lost each year as a result of disinvestment, and it would take $70 billion to address capital needs.”

“I convened a House Financial Services Committee hearing in April to assess the infrastructure needs of America’s housing stock, and today, I have introduced the Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019,” she said. “Studies have shown that neglecting our housing infrastructure will only hurt our economy, so I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to make the necessary investments in rural, suburban and urban housing markets, and ensure all future conversations around infrastructure investments include affordable housing.”

To put things in perspective, there is currently a housing shortage of 7.2 million rental housing units affordable to low-income families, the National Low Income Housing Coalition explained.

The Housing is Infrastructure Act will invest more than $100 billion in the construction of new affordable housing units, maintenance of existing subsidized housing, and support for rural housing through infrastructure investments.

Here’s where the money will be allocated:

  • $70 billion to the Public Housing Capital Fund, which will aid in building, modernizing, and rehabilitating public housing
  • $6 billion to building housing for elderly households, persons with disabilities, and Native Americans living on tribal lands
  • $5 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund for the construction of hundreds of thousands of new rental units that would be affordable for the lowest income households
  • $1 billion to the Rural Multi-Family Preservation and Revitalization Demonstration program of the Rural Housing Service, which is estimated to fully address the backlog of capital needs for the Section 515 and 514 rural housing stock
  • $10 billion to expand Community Development Block Grant funding set-aside to incentivize states and cities to eliminate impact fees and responsibly streamline the process for the development of new affordable housing
  • $2.5 billion for the Capital Magnet Fund, which will help fund hundreds of thousands of affordable housing solutions for low-income families
  • $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which will help build and rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership for low-income families.

Earlier this month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Senator Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who is also a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced the launch of their “Green New Deal for Public Housing.” This bill promises $180 billion over 10 years to cut carbon dioxide emissions from public housing across the country.

And presidential candidate Julián Castro has used his time as a candidate to highlight housing issues. At the October debate, Castro criticized the moderators for closing with a question about comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ controversial friendship with former President George W. Bush without asking any questions about housing and other critical issues. A week earlier, Castro had challenged the debate moderators via Twitter to ask a housing question.

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