California, New York fight over shrinking low-income housing aid in Democrats' bill

Jennifer Haberkorn and Benjamin Oreskes, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — In the scramble to appease centrists by scaling back their massive social safety net spending bill, Democrats are discussing cutting in half new funds to address homelessness, public housing, racial inequities in homeownership and renters’ assistance.

But because of the stark differences in the way low-income housing is addressed state by state, the proposed cuts have set off a West Coast-East Coast tug of war over what is expected to be a much smaller $150 billion pie.

The largest housing pieces in Democrats’ "Build Back Better" package, still subject to negotiation, divide assistance into three main buckets: repairs on public housing facilities, vouchers for low-income renters and construction of new low-income housing.

The public housing aid would primarily benefit New York and other mostly East Coast and Midwest cities that have large stocks of such housing.

New York state has close to 200,000 households in public housing, while California has only 27,000 households living in some form of public housing, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Low-income renters in New York City and similar cities would also be eligible for vouchers to subsidize their housing payments, which would likely be distributed to cities and counties based on need.


Leaders on the West Coast complain that creates a double-dip effect, in which certain cities would benefit from both provisions.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other California mayors pushed the White House in a virtual meeting last week to ensure that cuts would not be made equally between dollars for rental vouchers and money to repair public housing.

“It unintentionally discriminates in favor of East Coast” cities, Garcetti said in an interview. “So if you’re in New York, you get the bulk of [public housing funding], and an equal share of [vouchers],” Garcetti said. He asked the White House to “protect those vouchers disproportionately, so you can be fair to America.”

Leaders in New York, led by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, are fighting just as hard to preserve the public housing assistance. New York’s public housing infrastructure needs an estimated $40 billion in repairs.


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