House proposes historic housing funds for infrastructure bill - Affordable Housing Online

House proposes historic housing funds for infrastructure bill

By on September 16th, 2021

Tagged As: Affordable Housing News, Editorials

U.S. House of Representatives Chamber. Photo by history.house.gov
U.S. House of Representatives Chamber. Photo by history.house.gov

The House voted 30-24 last week to approve more than $330 billion in affordable housing funding for the bipartisan infrastructure package.

The bill makes historic investments in rental assistance, public housing improvements, and the production of new affordable housing. 

Housing advocates look at the bill as a once-in-a-generation commitment to affordable housing. Because these large investments target renters with the greatest needs, there could be much progress in ending homelessness.

The Big Investments

Affordability through Rental Assistance

The bill makes huge investments in affordability, preserving Public Housing, and building new affordable rental housing.

The legislation proposes $90 billion for rental assistance to help low-income renters. $75 billion of this is for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and $15 billion is for Project-Based Rental Assistance.

$48 billion of the total funding must serve tenants with extremely low incomes. $24 billion is set aside for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, domestic violence survivors, and victims of human trafficking. 

$500 million of the rental assistance is set aside for tenant protection vouchers. Another $500 million is set aside for outreach to landlords in low-poverty areas. This will help low-income renters with vouchers find housing in neighborhoods with better schools, and more economic opportunities.

Preserving and Improving Public Housing

The Committee provided $80 billion to preserve Public Housing. Of this amount, $10 billion will go to the Public Housing Capital Fund, which covers major repairs like replacing roofs and boilers, health and safety improvements, and energy efficiency upgrades. $66.5 billion will go to “targeted investments” at the HUD Secretary’s discretion. These funds can repair, replace, or construct new public housing.

The legislation also has $2.75 billion for competitive grants to support resident and community services, as well as community development and revitalization. The Public Housing funds are exempt from the Faircloth amendment. This legislation has barred Public Housing Agencies (housing authorities) from expanding the number of Public Housing units they own since the 1990s.

Creation of New Affordable Units

The legislation makes a major investment in building new affordable housing. It provides $37 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF). HTF funds are used to build new and preserve existing rental housing that is affordable to renters with the lowest incomes. These funds will help construct thousands of new housing units for extremely low-income renters.

The HUD Secretary may also waive requirements and regulations if needed to speed up the construction of new affordable housing. Exceptions are rules that relate to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment.

Other Critical Investments

The bill provides $35 billion for the HOME block grant program. This flexible program provides money to state and local governments to build and preserve affordable housing, including providing rental assistance. This is a huge increase from the $1 billion given last year.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) would get $8.5 billion. This is also much more than the program gets through its annual appropriation. CDBG also helps build new affordable housing, as well as community revitalization and economic development projects.

Rural housing is slated to receive $5.1 billion in the bill. These funds will build new rental housing through the Section 515 Rural Rental Housing, and Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing programs. They will also help preserve and repair affordable housing through Housing Preservation Grants.

Several other affordable housing and community development programs will see additional funding if the bill becomes law:

  • $9.6 billion for a new Housing Investment Fund, run through the Capital Magnet Fund
  • $10 billion for lead hazards and healthy housing
  • $7.5 billion for the Community Restoration and Revitalization Fund
  • $6 billion for the Green preservation of HUD multifamily housing
  • $4 billion for health and safety concerns in HUD homes
  • $4.5 billion to address zoning barriers to affordable housing
  • $2.5 billion for Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
  • $1 billion for Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities
  • $2 billion for tribal housing
  • $1.25 billion for Fair Housing
  • $10 billion for downpayment assistance for first-generation homebuyers and an additional $500 million to help build wealth.

What’s Next?

The Financial Services bill will be combined with spending packages from other House committees to make the $3.5 trillion Democratic infrastructure package. It will be voted on by the full House before the end of September, where it is expected to pass. After that, it will go to the Senate for a vote.

Some Democratic senators, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are opposed to the high price tag for the bill. It is likely that the bill’s total amount will be reduced during Senate negotiations. 

Housing advocates and low-income renters will need to let their senators know that affordable housing must receive as much funding as possible. Enough public pressure will help limit cuts to the affordable housing funds that get approved by the Senate.

Published by

Chris Holden

Chris Holden, Affordable Housing Online's Senior Housing Analyst, has been in the affordable housing field for 25 years. Originally from Keene, New Hampshire, he has worked as a researcher, policy analyst, lender, trainer and real estate developer. He also taught political science at Keene State College. He is focused on making housing policies more accessible for low-income renters.