The Senate on Tuesday passed a $1 trillion infrastructure package, then turned to a $3.5 trillion measure that could include more extensive investments in housing and changes to zoning policies.
The infrastructure bill includes $550 billion for bridges, roads, high-speed internet and other projects. The White House has billed the spending package as the largest-ever investment in public transit. Under the measure, Amtrak receives $66 billion, which is the most the rail service has received since its founding in 1971, according to the New York Times.
The Senate is now considering a $3.5 trillion plan that Democrats hope to approve through reconciliation, a process that would not require Republican support. The resolution allows for up to $332 billion for housing and other investments. That could help fund a $213 billion Biden plan to build or preserve more than 2 million affordable housing units.
Other housing proposals in Biden’s infrastructure plan, including an expansion of Section 8 housing vouchers and incentives for cities and states to eliminate exclusionary zoning, could also make it into the larger plan.
The Associated General Contractors of America, whose members would benefit from the plan approved Tuesday, urged the House to pass it as quickly as possible. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that the chamber will not vote on the initial bill until the Senate passes the more extensive measure.
“Unfortunately, some members of the House want to delay action on the bipartisan measure until passing an unrelated, partisan, spending bill,” said Stephen Sandherr, the group’s CEO. “The last thing Washington should do is hold a much-needed, bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage to partisan politics.”
The New York Housing Conference is hopeful that the budget legislation will ultimately include changes to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The group is advocating for a change to the program’s so-called “50 percent test,” which requires 50 percent or more of a development to be financed through private activity bonds in order to be eligible for such tax credits.
Because the federal government caps the number of such bonds New York can issue, the test limits affordable housing construction. Reducing the threshold to 25 percent would add 10,000 affordable housing units each year in the state, the group estimates.
“We have a housing crisis in this country. We certainly have a housing crisis in New York,” said Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference. “Getting around the state caps has to be a priority for New York.”