Alliance Legislative Report (updated on October 6)

Impact

The fight to make historic investments in low-income housing…

October 4–Congress continues to work on the Build Back Better reconciliation package that currently includes historic investments in low-income housing: $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 (HTF). 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi essentially set a new deadline of October 31 for the House to pass the Build Back Better legislation.  Given that Congress generally waits to the last moment to make tough decisions, we should probably expect the House to pass the reconciliation package later in the month rather than sooner. 

One thing we do know is that the Build Back Better reconciliation package will be reduced in value by approximately 40%–from $3.5 trillion to anywhere from $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion—in a concession to moderate Democrats in the Senate. 

Such a reduction could mean that the House leadership, often taking direction from senior Administration officials, could decide to drop the investments in low-income housing from the reconciliation package entirely or reduce them substantially.  In fact, a recent article in The Washington Post speculated that the housing investments could be among the first items dropped from the Build Back Better reconciliation package. 

The reconciliation package also includes an investment of $190 billion in Medicaid’s home- and community-based services that can be used to pay for supportive housing services.  However, that investment is also threated by cutting the cost of the reconciliation package by two-fifths. 

The Alliance continues to remind lawmakers that the advantage of the low-income housing investments, particularly for vouchers, is that these benefits are narrowly targeted to the households who need help the most.  The demand from low-income households for housing vouchers far exceeds the supply.  While 5.3 million households receive vouchers, almost 16 million households don’t even though they also qualify [because they earn 80% or less of area median income (AMI) and spend more than 30% of their income on rent or live in overcrowded or substandard housing]. 

And while there are several programs to stimulate new housing, the HTF is acknowledged as being the best at developing low-income housing.  HTF is of particular importance in states experiencing critical shortages of affordable and available homes for households with extremely low incomes or those earning 50% of AMI.  Check this National Low Income House Coalition chart to see if your state needs HTF investments to build housing for those income categories: https://reports.nlihc.org/gap

The Alliance understands that the dollar amount of the House’s fine package of low-income housing investments could be reduced, but we ask lawmakers to shield from those cuts investments in programs that are targeted towards families with the greatest needs, like vouchers, public housing, and the HTF.  If we can’t do everything we want in a reduced Build Back Better reconciliation package, let’s at least prioritize funds for those who need the most help.  If we want to most effectively address economic and racial inequities (including lifting out of poverty hundreds of thousands of families of people of color) and significantly reduce homelessness, these three targeted investments must be maintained. 

In an effort to show support for the three low-income housing investments, Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY) is circulating a sign on letter to his colleagues.  The letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer asks that those investments be retained in the final version of Build Back Better.  More than a hundred of his colleagues signed on to an earlier version of this letter that was sent in August.  The Alliance is urging Representatives to sign on to the Torres letter.  The deadline for signing on is Friday, October 8, at Noon.  The letter to Congressional leadership, preceded by Representative Torres’ transmittal letter, is reproduced below.  At the very bottom is a list of lawmakers who have already signed on to the Torres letter.  

 
     
     

Keep Robust Affordable Housing Investments in the Build Back Better Act

Deadline: Friday, 10/8 at Noon

Dear Colleague:

I invite you to join a letter to Congressional leadership underscoring the urgent need to preserve substantial housing investments in the Build Back Better Act. As Congress works to advance the President’s agenda, we must preserve investments in affordable, accessible housing for the lowest-income and most marginalized Americans.

The United States has been in the grips of a housing crisis since long before the pandemic began. Across the country, there is not a single state or congressional district with enough affordable housing to meet the needs of low-income renters. Despite this clear need, three-quarters of households eligible for housing assistance receive none because Congress continues to underfund proven solutions.

The Build Back Better Act presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Congress to enact bold policies that address this crisis and fundamentally reimagine affordable housing in America. Housing is more than just brick and mortar – it is the foundation on which we build our lives. . Please join our letter urging Congressional leadership to prioritize and preserve funding levels for affordable housing in the Build Back Better Act.

Sincerely,

Ritchie Torres, Member of Congress                                                         

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer:

We write to highlight the urgent need for substantial affordable housing infrastructure investments as part of the broader Build Back Better Act. While congressional leaders continue to negotiate the size and scope of the economic recovery package, it is critical that any cuts made to the overall package do not come at the expense of affordable, accessible homes for America’s lowest-income and most marginalized people.

Even before the pandemic, America was in the grips of an affordable housing crisis, most severely impacting the most marginalized and lowest-income people, including seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and others. Nationally, there is a shortage of 7 million homes affordable and available to renters with extremely low incomes. For every 10 of these households, there are fewer than 4 affordable and available homes. There is not a single state or congressional district with enough affordable homes to meet this demand.

Without affordable options, 8 million extremely low-income households pay at least half of their limited incomes on rent, leaving them without the resources they need to put food on the table, purchase needed medications, or make ends meet. Another half a million people experience homelessness on any given night. Despite the clear need, 3 in 4 households eligible for housing assistance receive none because Congress continues to underfund proven solutions. Families wait for years, even decades, on waiting lists.

The housing and homelessness crisis disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who – because of structural racism in housing and other sectors – are more likely to have extremely low-incomes, be severely cost-burdened, face eviction, and experience homelessness.

As this legislation advances in Congress, we urge you to ensure that funding levels for rental assistance, public housing and the Housing Trust Fund match the amounts included in the bill approved by the House Financial Services Committee on September 14:

·    $90 billion to expand rental assistance to 1 million additional households.

·    $80 billion to address the Public Housing repair backlog for 2.5 million residents.

·    $37 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve 330,000 homes affordable to people with the greatest needs.

Taken together, these investments could effectively end homelessness in the United States. Any cuts to funding for these priority programs means fewer people safely and affordably housed.

More than ever, we need your leadership to enact bold policies to ensure that people with the lowest incomes and the most marginalized people have a stable, affordable home. These housing investments should be prioritized to help ensure the Build Back Better Act delivers broad and equitable benefits to all Americans.

 

Here are the House lawmakers that have already signed on:

Carolyn B. Maloney

Eleanor Holmes Norton

Raul M. Grijalva

Dwight Evans

Jesús G. “Chuy” García

Yvette D. Clarke

Nydia M. Velázquez

Marilyn Strickland

Rashida Tlaib

Adam Schiff

Ro Khanna

James P. McGovern

Earl Blumenauer

Nikema Williams

Zoe Lofgren

Barbara Lee

Grace Meng

Madeleine Dean

Jake Auchincloss

Danny K. Davis

 

Summary

Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld (jthrelkeld@naeh.org) know if you have any questions about legislation. 

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