Build Back Better Act passes House with $150B for affordable housing

U.S. House of Representatives Chamber
U.S. House of Representatives Chamber. Photo by

The House of Representatives passed historic legislation on Friday that would boost the social safety net and make big investments in affordable housing.

The $2.2 trillion Build Back Better Act passed on a party-line vote of 220-213. None of the 213 Republican members of the House voted to pass it. If it makes it through the Senate, it will bring affordable homes to millions of renters with the lowest incomes.

The bill provides $150 billion for affordable housing. It provides a huge boost in rental assistance vouchers, public housing improvements, and building new affordable rental homes. There is also extra funding for many existing federal programs that benefit low-income renters.

Use the links below to read more about each funding proposal: 

The bill has many of the same provisions as a more expensive measure approved by the House Financial Services Committee in September. Although many programs were scaled back to reduce the overall cost of the spending package, support for affordable housing remained strong.

Rental Assistance

The Build Back Better Act provides $25 billion to expand rental assistance. $22.1 billion goes to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. This would be the largest expansion of the program since it began in the early 1970s. 

Other funds are set aside for vouchers helping people experiencing homelessness, survivors of domestic violence, and households with extremely low incomes. It also includes $1 billion to expand project-based rental assistance.

Altogether, this investment in rental assistance will help 300,000 households afford a decent apartment.

Public Housing

The Build Back Better Act also addresses the need to improve America’s aging Public Housing stock. It provides $65 billion for Public Housing preservation and improvements. There is an estimated $70 billion backlog in Public Housing repairs, so this investment will go a long way to improving the quality of life for low-income renters.

Housing Trust Fund

In addition to helping renters afford housing and upgrading public housing, the bill recognizes the need to build new housing affordable to renters with the lowest incomes. It provides $15 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund. 

The Housing Trust Fund typically has an annual budget of about $1 billion. This funding boost would support the development of 150,000 affordable rental homes.

Other Investments

The Build Back Better Act also boosts existing programs that benefit low-income renters. Some of these programs help build new affordable housing, while others support community development projects that benefit low-income residents.

The legislation makes changes to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that would make it easier to serve renters with the lowest incomes. The changes also expand the value of the credits so that more housing can be built using them.

Here are some other investments in the bill that would directly benefit low-income renters:

  • $10 billion for the HOME program
  • $5 billion to address lead hazards and promote healthy housing
  • $3.05 billion for Community Development Block Grants 
  • $2 billion for green preservation of HUD multifamily housing
  • $2 billion for rural housing
  • $1.75 billion to address zoning barriers to affordable housing
  • $1 billion for tribal housing
  • $800 million for fair housing activities
  • $500 million for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
  • $500 million for Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities

What’s Next?

The Build Back Better Act now goes to the Senate. It will likely be trimmed down to meet the demands of moderates, especially Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Sinema (D-NV). 

Manchin and Sinema each have their own concerns about different provisions in the bill, but both want a lower total price tag closer to $1.5 trillion. Democrats are using a process called budget reconciliation to pass the social spending package. It allows them to pass it with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes needed under the Senate’s filibuster rules. 

Reconciliation means that Democrats can pass the bill without any Republican votes. It also means that they need every Democrat to support the final package. The Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

Because they need Manchin and Sinema’s votes, Democrats will likely have to make cuts to different programs. Affordable housing advocates are working hard to make sure that affordable housing continues to get strong funding in the final bill.

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