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Biden wants more housing units as Hill Democrats urge rental aid

Caitlin Reilly, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Business News

Biden’s infrastructure proposal would provide $40 billion to address a backlog of repairs in public housing. The coalition put the backlog of repairs at about $70 billion.

Neither of Biden’s two infrastructure proposals would subsidize rent for low-income families.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have insisted that any infrastructure package passed through reconciliation must include rental subsidies to bring down costs for the lowest-income families.

“When the subject of affordable housing is brought up, the question that often comes to mind is affordable for whom,” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., said at the Financial Services hearing. “If we expand housing supply without expanding housing subsidy, then we run the risk of creating housing that’s unaffordable to the lowest-income Americans.”

Torres organized a group of 106 House Democrats in a call to include rental vouchers in an infrastructure package, according to a draft letter to House leadership provided to CQ Roll Call.

Section 8 housing vouchers are the government’s main program for subsidizing housing costs. The vouchers accounted for $25 billion of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s enacted fiscal 2021 budget, just over half of the $49.7 billion in the department’s discretionary spending. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said households wait an average of 2.5 years to secure a voucher.

 

The vouchers can cover up to 70 percent of rent for families that make half the local median income or less. Three-quarters of subsidies must go to households making a third of the median or less. The estimated 8.2 million voucher-eligible households that go without aid far outnumber the 2.3 million that get them.

Senate proposals

Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill for infrastructure would include “major dollars” for housing, including public housing, rental vouchers, down payment assistance for buyers and lead paint removal. But the details are still unclear.

“I always want to do more, but … the topline numbers we see look really good,” Brown said in an interview without disclosing the exact figure.

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