Public Housing Takes Priority in Biden Spending Bill

Legislation word on ripped paper

The latest version of the White House’s social spending framework puts half as much toward housing. But it's still one of the largest affordable housing investments in history.

November 15, 2021
Kriston Capps - Bloomberg

The White House narrowed its housing agenda with the latest compromise version of President Joe Biden’s social spending bill, lowering funding levels by half while also shifting the bill’s priorities.

Representative Maxine Waters and her allies had pushed for $327 billion for rental assistance, affordable housing and other progressive priorities in the reconciliation bill. The most recent White House framework for the Build Back Better Act shows that this figure has been cut in half: The new target is $150 billion, with funding for many of the same programs intact.

As a result, the balance of the housing investment has shifted from rental aid to public housing, according to the text of the bill. Funds to repair, replace or build public housing amount to $65 billion, down from a proposed $80 billion yet close to half the total housing package.

The White House describes the housing bill as “the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history.” A fact sheet states that it will build or preserve more than 1 million affordable apartments and homes. Biden’s bill also includes a soft repeal of the Faircloth Amendment, a provision that has banned any net new federal public housing units since 1999. Yet the latest version of the bill will not go as far to fulfill Biden’s promise to expand housing vouchers as a federal entitlement program.


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