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President’s Forum: The Latest on the American Jobs Plan

Proposal Includes $40 Billion in Capital Funds

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

PHADA participated in a June 21 meeting with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, Department staff and dozens of national housing organizations to discuss the Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan (AJP), which contains about $150 billion in housing investments under HUD’s jurisdiction. PHADA supports provisions in the plan and encourages members to contact their Representatives and Senators to help move the legislation forward.

 

The Plan’s Contents

In a fact sheet promoting the AJP, HUD noted that “even after the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of Americans will struggle to access affordable, safe, energy efficient, and resilient housing and too many communities will continue to suffer from the effects of years of disinvestment.” The statement said that 11 million families pay more than half their income on rent, and 3 million families with children under six reside in homes with lead paint. “These challenges are even more severe in low-income communities and communities of color, which have been segregated, excluded, and neglected for generations,” HUD added.

PHADA’s highest priority in the package centers on the $40 billion in additional capital funding. Secretary Fudge has noted that, like roads, schools, and power grids, public housing is critical infrastructure that directly impacts the health and viability of communities. HUD has also announced that some portion of the $40 billion could be used for the development of new public housing units.

PHADA strongly supports the measure because it will enhance living conditions for millions of residents while also creating tens of thousands of jobs. Moreover, we agree with HUD that this is not just a safety issue but a racial justice issue, as almost three in four public housing residents are people of color.

The Biden Administration is also proposing large investments in HUD’s HOME program and the Housing Trust Fund to address housing needs in communities across the country. With an expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, the Administration said the funds will produce and preserve more than one million affordable sustainable homes for low-income families. Moreover, with $3 billion in new funding available, the AJP would also help remove hazardous lead-based paint from homes. This is critically important as three million homes with children under six years of age have lead-based paint hazards, including more than 1 million low-income households.

In addition to these important provisions, the AJP would incentivize the removal of exclusionary zoning and create more climate-resilient communities. The Administration has proposed a more than $2 billion investment for a new Community Development Block Grant Program for resilience activities in communities vulnerable to climate change. HUD would target funding to low- and moderate-income areas with increased risk from climate related disasters.

The plan would also develop and help operate affordable housing for older Americans. This includes $2 billion for HUD’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program, increasing the supply of affordable housing with supportive services for very low-income older Americans.

 

AJP’s Fate in Congress

At this stage, the AJP’s future on Capitol Hill is unclear. The vote margins in both the U.S. House and Senate are very slim so its passage is by no means assured. Right now, there are 220 Democrats in the House to 211 Republicans with four vacancies. The Senate is evenly split at 50–50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as a potential tie breaker. More than 20 U.S. Senators from both parties are working on a bipartisan infrastructure package that may possibly move forward in that chamber, where at least 60 votes are typically required to advance legislation. However, that bill is significantly slimmed-down and does not contain the housing infrastructure provisions (it addresses more typical infrastructure such as roads and bridges).

Meanwhile, some Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate are considering trying to move the AJP as part of $6 trillion “reconciliation” bill that could be enacted with simple majorities in both chambers, thus avoiding the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. Still, that path might prove very difficult with virtually no room for error because of the tight margins referenced above. One possible scenario is that Congress considers both versions. The smaller infrastructure package on roads and bridges would be taken up first followed by the broader reconciliation version later. Again, however, the situation is very uncertain at this stage.

 

Please Contact Your Representatives and Two Senators

The AJP presents a historic opportunity to secure billions of dollars that are required to address the large capital backlog needs of our aging housing stock. There is very real possibility we could secure the capital funding, but as noted above, housing could be left out of an infrastructure package. Therefore, please contact your elected officials in Washington and ask them to support the AJP, especially the capital funding. You may want to use PHADA’s special capital fund/Infrastructure paper to help you make the case to your Representatives and Senators. The Position Paper can be found here.