President Biden released a framework for a reconciliation bill that would implement his legislative priorities. No text for actual legislation was provided, so the framework is only the general outline of a plan at this point. However, it provides target funding levels for the various program areas, including $150 billion for housing, out of the total of $1.75 trillion in proposed new spending.
According to the White House, the housing funding provided by the framework “will enable the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than 1 million affordable homes, boosting housing supply and reducing price pressures for renters and homeowners. It will address the capital needs of the public housing stock in big cities and rural communities all across America and ensure it is not only safe and habitable but healthier and more energy efficient as well. It will make a historic investment in rental assistance, expanding vouchers to hundreds of thousands of additional families. And, it includes one of the largest investments in down payment assistance in history, enabling hundreds of thousands of first-generation homebuyers to purchase their first home and build wealth. This legislation will create more equitable communities, through investing in community-led redevelopments projects in historically under-resourced neighborhoods and removing lead paint from hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as by incentivizing state and local zoning reforms that enable more families to reside in higher opportunity neighborhoods.”
Given that there has been no actual legislation put forward to implement these goals, it is not clear how the funding levels of existing programs would be affected. There are any number of programs that the White House could be referring to in describing its plans, including the Section 8 voucher program, the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program and the rental assistance demonstration (RAD) program. How much additional funding would go to these programs or to entirely new programs will have to be worked out in drafting the implementing legislation.
Reaction comes in
In a statement reacting to the announcement of the framework, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) said, “The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities applauds President Biden’s announcement of a $1.85 trillion reconciliation framework with $150 billion targeted to affordable housing, the single largest investment in public housing ever.”
Half a loaf …
The spending level proposed in the announced reconciliation framework is approximately half that which had been under discussion earlier. The reduced spending level may have been a concession to moderates in the Democratic Party who had been uncomfortable with the $3.5 trillion in new spending that had been originally proposed for the “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill. Now, President Biden will have to convince the progressive wing of the party that half a reconciliation package is better than none. With razor thin majorities in both houses of Congress, the Democrats will have to keep all of their members in line if they are going to push this through.