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Biden infrastructure plan’s housing initiatives are sidestepped…for now

A new, bipartisan plan will sidestep Biden’s affordable housing initiatives for now.

“We have a deal,” President Biden said on June 21, appearing with the group of Republican and Democratic senators outside the White House to announce a bipartisan infrastructure agreement to spend $579 billion in new spending and $1.2 trillion over eight years on such traditional infrastructure as roads, bridges, rail, water systems, and internet broadband.    

Unlike Biden’s original $2.3 billion infrastructure proposal, the bipartisan plan would not raise taxes on corporations but would be paid for with unused COVID-19 relief money, user fees, and other funds.

Also missing from the bipartisan infrastructure package is the $213 billion in funding (and more than $100 billion in new and expanded tax credits) “to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live” that was in Biden’s original billion infrastructure plan. So much for the housing initiatives.

At the time of this article, however, the “deal” is in flux as Republicans object to Biden’s announcement that he will veto the bipartisan infrastructure plan if it is not accompanied by a budget resolution that funds “human infrastructure” aimed at communities and families. The budget reconciliation process allows Democrats to pass legislation without Republican support in a 50-50 Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the tie-breaking vote.

The affordable housing initiatives in Biden’s original plan are sidestepped for now, but will they resurface?  Here are just a few of the proposals that currently are in limbo.

Construction and Rehabilitation of 500,000 Homes

Biden’s original plan called for Congress to pass the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (S.98 and H.R. 2143), which would provide $20 billion in federal income tax credits for the building and rehabilitation of 500,000 homes in low and moderate-income neighborhoods over the next five years.  The tax credits would cover the gap between the cost of building and restoring homes and the price at which they can be sold.

Elimination of Exclusionary Zoning Laws

Biden also asked Congress to authorize grants and tax credits to cities that change exclusionary zoning laws and land-use policies (such as minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing) that favor single family homes and may block smaller, more affordable home construction. The Biden administration has yet to designate which zoning ordinances it deems exclusionary.

Investments to Increase Energy Efficiency

The plan proposed a $17.5 billion investment in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, which reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes through block grants.
It also proposed $500 million in grants and low-interest loans to help renovate multifamily homes; a $10 billion consumer electrification rebate program; and the extension and expansion of existing home efficiency tax credits for working families.

Investments in Rural Communities

Biden wants to invest $2 billion to build and rehabilitate housing across rural America. This includes additional loans under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 502 direct loan program that would enable low-income individuals in federally declared disaster areas to use funds for new construction of single-family homes, and new resources through the Small Business Administration’s Section 504 loan program to help existing low-income rural homeowners make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

Building Affordable Housing and Infrastructure in Small Towns

The Plan would devote $250 million towards a new Main Street Revitalization Program that would provide grants to communities for renovating their downtown business districts and adding units of affordable housing, while retaining the area’s traditional and historic character.

Outlook

Regardless of the outcome of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, Biden’s affordable housing initiatives are by no means dead. The Democrats still intend to include undetermined elements of his “human infrastructure” proposals into a budget resolution, and other components requiring Republican support for passage in the Senate likely will be split into multiple bills.

Sue Johnson is the former executive director of RESPRO, the Real Estate Services Providers Council, Inc. She retired in 2015 and is now a strategic alliance consultant.

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