House committee accelerates investments in historic housing
Guest blog written by Sam Whillans
The Home financial services (HFS) a Advanced a invoice propose historic investments in affordable housing programs of the federal government. The proposed law makes essential investments to preserve the country’s affordable housing stock and will bring tangible relief to millions of renters and future homeowners who are currently struggling to secure safe and affordable housing. The bill is a key part of the Build Back Better Act, the Biden-Harris administration’s intergovernmental plan to invest in the economy and bring relief to American families.
Promote safe, affordable and energy efficient rental housing
The Covid-19 pandemic hits tenants particularly hard. Even before the pandemic, however, many tenants struggled to find safe and affordable housing. According to a report, before the pandemic hit, about one in four tenant households paid more than half of their income in rent. For the most modest households, this figure rises to almost three in four.
The federal government supports millions of low-income tenants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program. Despite the enormous needs, this program has been chronically underfunded. The HFS bill would provide relief by providing $ 75 billion for the voucher program. Of these funds, $ 24 billion goes to vulnerable households, including those at risk of homelessness and survivors of domestic violence.
The federal government also supports more than 1.2 million low-income households living in private rental housing through HUDs Rental assistance on project program. As part of this program, HUD contracts with private landlords to ensure the long-term affordability of their properties. For many years, Congress provided only the funds necessary to renew existing annual contracts. For the first time in decades, the HFS bill would provide $ 15 billion in new funding to expand project-based assistance, with priority given to multi-family projects in priority areas that serve homeless people. or include units accessible to people with disabilities.
The HFS Bill also invests in the long-term affordability and climate resilience of federally-subsidized private rental housing by providing $ 6 billion to fund a range of efficiency and climate-related improvements. Eligible activities include energy and water efficiency improvements; the installation of stations for the production of electricity, energy storage or recharging of zero-emission electric vehicles; and building electrification projects. Beyond their climate benefits, these projects will bring a range of benefits to residents, including more affordable utility bills and better indoor air quality and better health outcomes through electrification.
Revitalizing public housing in the climate age
America’s public housing system is a vital resource. In addition to providing a stable source of more than one million units affordable housing, public housing projects are home to some of the country’s most vibrant and diverse communities. Unfortunately, years of divestment have contributed to a backlog of capital requirements and significant habitability problems within the system.
Bill HFS makes historic and long-awaited investment in nation’s public housing stock by investing $ 80 billion in HUD Capital funds, which is used to finance the rehabilitation and modernization of social housing. This sum will allow HUD to address fully its current capital needs, including remediation of immediate health risks such as lead, mold and asbestos. The bill also calls on the HUD to consider energy and water efficiency and climate resilience when spending funds, an important step in ensuring that the public housing system is ready for a climate-impacted future. .
Reduce barriers to home ownership
Tenants assisted by the federal government are not the only ones benefiting from the proposed law. The HFS bill includes several measures to expand access to homeownership, including:
- $ 72 billion for HUDs HOME Investment Partnerships Program, a subsidy program to provide a range of housing options accessible to low-income households;
- 10 billion dollars for the Treasury Department Capital magnet fund, which provides grants to community development organizations and non-profit organizations to create new affordable housing; and
- The creation of a $ 10 billion first-generation down payment fund and a new HUD-administered initiative to increase access to federally insured mortgages.
The down payment and mortgage program is specifically aimed at first generation homebuyers, defined as someone whose parents or spouse do not currently own (or have not recently owned) a home. .
The bill’s emphasis on supporting first-generation home buyers is particularly commendable given the history of racial exclusion in federal housing policy. Until the 1970s, federal officials refuse to insure mortgages in predominantly black neighborhoods in a racist practice known as âredliningâ. Redlining excluded potential black homebuyers from the otherwise successful New Deal-era government homeownership programs, contributing to a persistent gap homeownership rates between white households and households of color. Continued use of discriminatory lending practices by banks, for example by targeting borrowers of color with predatory loans, has only widened the gap. By targeting first-generation homebuyers, Bill HFS takes a small but necessary step toward correcting the systemic exclusion of families of color from homeownership opportunities.
Other investments to promote resilient and inclusive communities
Beyond targeted investments in housing affordability, the HFS Bill provides funding for several additional programs aimed at promoting climate resilient and inclusive communities. The bill increases funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance program, including $ 3 billion for flood mapping and risk analysis, a vital measure to ensure that vulnerable landowners are prepared to deal with the increased flood risks presented by rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather conditions.
Other measures in the HFS bill focus on neighborhood revitalization, including a $ 7.5 billion community restoration and revitalization fund to support community projects such as community land trusts. The bill also more than doubles existing funding for HUDs Block grants program for community development, which funds a wide range of economic development activities and infrastructure projects such as community centers, street repairs, and water and sewer facilities.
A historic opportunity
The HFS bill presents an opportunity to reverse the long trend of federal neglect of housing policy and to invest in American families at a time when the need has never been greater. Congress is expected to pass the HFS Bill as part of the Build Back Better Act to make investments that ensure every U.S. resident has safe, healthy, and affordable housing.
Sam Whillans is the NRDC-Yale 2021 Legal Fellow. He works with the NRDC Energy Efficiency for All team on a range of climate and housing justice issues, including energy efficiency, housing affordability. utilities and tenant protection.