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.
Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld (email@example.com) know if you have any questions about legislation.