Legislative Update: Homelessness in Congress’ Reconciliation Bill

This week is extremely important for federal legislation and homelessness: it could be the week that the House votes on a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package that includes significant investments in low-income housing and supportive housing services. 

The House Financial Services Committee has approved investments of $90 billion for permanent rental assistance ($75 billion for vouchers and $15 billion for project-based rental assistance), $80 billion in public housing, and $37 billion in the National Housing Trust Fund. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also approved an investment of $190 billion in Medicaid’s home- and community-based services (HCBS) that can be used to pay for supportive housing services. 

The entire reconciliation package, as it was approved by the House Budget Committee on Saturday, September 25, includes a wide range of investments—from stopping climate change to making prescription drugs more affordable.

However, with no margin in a 50-50 Senate and the slimmest of margins in a House with a slight Democratic advantage, the House leadership may impose cuts in the reconciliation package to satisfy moderate Democrats in both chambers.  This could mean specific cuts to the four investments identified in the second paragraph or arbitrary cuts in most if not all investments (which are merely intended to drive down the package’s overall cost without regard for policy). 

The Alliance is reminding lawmakers that these four housing and Medicaid investments represent an historic opportunity to address the low-income housing crisis – the principal cause of homelessness – and help communities cope with the high costs of chronic homelessness.

Lawmakers should also keep in mind that President Biden campaigned on a platform of universal housing vouchers. The Alliance (along with partners at the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) initially asked for $180 billion for permanent rental assistance (which would have merely been sufficient to house the nation’s households with incomes below 15% of area median income).  Clearly, the low-income housing portion of the package has already been reviewed for cuts and no lawmaker has come forward publicly to find fault with these investments. 

The Alliance continues to insist to Representatives and Senators that the four investments in low-income housing and supportive housing services, particularly the $90 billion for permanent rental assistance, must be maintained as the big reconciliation package proceeds.

Our message is simple:

“The House budget reconciliation package’s investments in low-income housing, particularly the $90 billion for permanent rental assistance, must be kept intact as Congress continues its consideration of the legislation.”