As Democrats tangle over the details of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill, its housing funding has been on the chopping block for weeks. Now, a clearer picture of the measure’s possible haircut is starting to emerge.
President Joe Biden on Thursday laid out a new $1.75 trillion framework, shrinking the proposed spending plan from $3.5 trillion. In the latest iteration, $150 billion is dedicated to housing, down from $330 billion. The plan includes a 15 percent tax on large corporations, but does not include a new billionaires’ tax.
The president is hopeful that the amended plan will appease the moderates in his party, potentially paving the way for approval of a separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The larger bill, released by the House Rules Committee, includes $25 billion for rental assistance, a majority of which is dedicated to the federal housing choice voucher program along with roughly $1 billion for project-based rental assistance. Lawmakers had previously considered $90 billion in assistance, with $75 billion for vouchers and $15 billion for project-based assistance.
The measure also calls for $15 billion for the Housing Trust Fund, less than half of the $37 billion originally pitched. The new allocation would help build and preserve more than 150,000 homes for extremely low-income households, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The original allocation would have created or preserved twice as many units.
Still, these amounts represent historic-levels of investment, if approved.
“We are one step closer to achieving historic housing investments and keeping the country’s lowest-income people affordably housed, but we’re not done yet,” NLIHC president and CEO Diane Yentel said in a statement. “We’re urging all members of Congress to enact this legislation as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, the bill allocates $65 billion to public housing. The president’s initial plan called for a $40 billion investment, which was subsequently raised to $80 billion amid calls for more funding from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and other elected officials. The New York City Housing Authority’s backlog in capital needs alone is estimated to be $40 billion.
The measure also includes $1.75 billion for the “Unlocking Possibilities Program,” which would provide grants to localities that, among other requirements, enact zoning or policies that “reduce barriers to housing supply elasticity and affordability” and craft housing plans that curb segregation and displacement. Funding for the program was previously pegged at nearly $5 billion.