p_gangler / Adobe Stock

Additional legislation has been introduced on Capitol Hill to address the nation’s affordable housing shortage.

The latest legislation comes from California Democrats Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee. The Housing is Infrastructure Act proposes investing over $100 billion in the construction of new affordable housing units, maintenance of the current subsidized housing stock, and support for rural housing.

“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,” said Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate. “It will take 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. 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 convened a House Financial Services Committee hearing in April to assess the infrastructure needs of the nation’s housing stock.

“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,” said Waters. “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.

The bill would make the following investments:

  • $70 billion to the Public Housing Capital Fund, which would aid in building, modernizing, and rehabbing public housing;
  • $6 billion for building housing for elderly households, people with disabilities, and Native Americans living on tribal lands;
  • $5 billion to the National Housing Trust Fund for the construction of new housing units for very low-income households;
  • $1 billion to the Rural Multi-Family Preservation and Revitalization program to address the backlog of capital needs for Section 515 and 514 stock;
  • $10 billion to expand Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs);
  • $2.5 billion for the Capital Magnet Fund; and
  • $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships program.

Earlier this year, Harris and Waters introduced the Ending Homelessness Act, and Harris also introduced the Rent Relief Act to create a renter tax credit.

The Housing as Infrastructure Act has received support from a number of organizations, including Enterprise Community Partners, Local Initiatives Support Corp., National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), National Housing Conference, National Low Income Housing Coalition, and National Multifamily Housing Council.

“The Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2019 provides communities with desperately needed resources for our nation’s housing stock. NAHRO thanks chairwoman Maxine Waters for her leadership, for recognizing the $70 billion backlog in public housing capital needs, and for investing in programs with demonstrated success, such as the HOME Investment Partnerships program, CDBG, and the Native American Housing Block Grant program, among others,” said NAHRO CEO Adrianne Todman. “Housing is infrastructure, and NAHRO members nationwide stand ready to place additional federal resources to work.”

In other housing legislation, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced the Homes for All Act, which would authorize construction of 12 million new public housing and private permanent affordable housing rental units.

Omar’s legislation would repeal the Faircloth amendment, allowing the government to begin reinvesting in new public housing for the first time since 1990s. The bill also would make a historic investment of $800 billion over the course of 10 years with the goal of building 8.5 million new units of public housing. It also would invest $200 billion in the National Housing Trust Fund to help local communities build 3.5 million affordable housing units for low- and extremely low-income families.

“Every American deserves access to a safe and stable place to live, but unfortunately, our current free-market housing system is not meeting the needs of working families,” Omar said. “We need to treat the affordable housing shortage like the crisis that it is. Housing is a fundamental human right. It’s time we as a nation acted like it and end the housing crisis once and for all.”