Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376)

U.S. House bill: H.R. 5376, introduced by Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY-3) — Build Back Better Act

Committees:

House Committee on the Budget

Status:

The bill passed the House, on November 19, 2021, by a party line vote, 220-213. Due to Senate opposition, the legislation has not been scheduled for a vote in the other chamber.

Impact

The Build Back Better package that passed the House includes $25 billion in housing choice vouchers so that more eligible households can take advantage of this successful assisted housing program, $65 billion to restore thousands of units of public housing to habitability after decades of underinvestment, and $15 billion to increase our nation’s depleted stock of affordable housing.  Although changes will inevitably be made, these three essential pillars of the housing section be retained at comparable levels of investment in the BBB package or any successor effort. 

Unfortunately, because of the uniform opposition of Senate Republicans and one Senate Democrat in an evenly divided Senate, BBB is moribund if not dead.  

Here’s a more detailed recitation of the relevant contents of the BBB package from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

The Build Back Better Act expands rental assistance by $25 billion, including $22.1 billion to provide Housing Choice Vouchers and $1 billion for project-based rental assistance. Of the amount provided for vouchers, $7.1 billion is set aside for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking; $15 billion is set aside for households with extremely low incomes.  Altogether, these investments would serve 300,000 households.

Rental assistance is a critical tool for helping the lowest-income people afford to keep roofs over their heads, and the program has a proven track record of reducing homelessness and housing poverty. This investment is an important first step toward fulfilling President Biden’s goal to make rental assistance available to all eligible households.  Rental assistance addresses a major cause of our nation’s affordable rental housing crisis: the mismatch between growing housing costs and stagnant wages for people with the lowest incomes. Nationwide, 8 million of the lowest-income renters pay at least half of their income on rent, leaving them without the resources they need to make ends meet. Despite the clear need, only 1 in 4 eligible households receive any help and some households spend years on waitlists due to inadequate funding by Congress.  The bill includes funding for tenant protection vouchers ($1 billion), mobility services ($300 million), and
landlord outreach ($230 million).

The Build Back Better Act provides $65 billion to preserve public housing for future generations and to protect the health and safety of its 2.5 million residents. This investment will help remediate immediate health hazards in public housing, increase energy efficiency, and ensure the nation’s public housing stock is resilient to climate change and natural disasters.  Of the amount provided, $10 billion is set aside for the Public Housing Capital Fund and $53 billion is provided for priority investments, as determined by the HUD Secretary.  Public housing is critical to ensuring people with the greatest needs have an affordable and accessible place to call home, and the preservation of this community asset is key to any strategy to address America’s housing crisis. Congress has divested from public housing for decades, resulting in over $70 billion in unmet
capital backlog needs. As a result, our nation loses 10,000 to 15,000 units of public housing every year to obsolescence or decay and other units fall into disrepair. With a $65 billion investment, the Build Back Better Act will significantly address capital needs in public housing.

The Build Back Better Act includes $15 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund, which could build or preserve more than 150,000 rental homes affordable to households with extremely low incomes.  The resources are provided through a set-aside within the HOME Investment Partnership Program for Housing Trust Fund activities and grantees.  The Housing Trust Fund is the first new federal housing resource in a generation exclusively targeted to build and preserve rental homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes. It is also the only federal housing production program targeted to address the underlying cause of America’s housing crisis: the severe shortage rental homes that are affordable and available to people with the lowest incomes. Nationally, there is a shortage of 7 million homes affordable and available to the nation’s extremely low-income renters. For every 10 of these households, there are fewer than 4 homes affordable and available to them. No state or congressional district has enough supply to meet this demand.

Summary

The Build Back Better package that passed the House includes $25 billion in housing choice vouchers so that more eligible households can take advantage of this successful assisted housing program, $65 billion to restore thousands of units of public housing to habitability after decades of underinvestment, and $15 billion to increase our nation’s depleted stock of affordable housing.  Although changes will inevitably be made, these three essential pillars of the housing section be retained at comparable levels of investment in the BBB package or any successor effort.  BBB is moribund if not dead.

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