Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, introduced legislation to comprehensively address chronic underfunding of the public housing program in the United States to ensure access to housing that is safe, decent and affordable for the 1.2 million vulnerable families who rely on it.
The measure, entitled the Public Housing Tenant Protection and Reinvestment Act, seeks to preserve public housing and transform extremely impoverished neighborhoods by authorizing full funding for the Public Housing Program plus additional funding to address the backlog of capital needs, providing a loan guarantee for public housing agencies to attract outside investment into public housing units, and authorizing a grant program that focuses on revitalizing the most distressed public housing units.
In cases where public housing units are demolished or sold, the bill requires one-for-one replacement, and increases tenant protections to help ensure that residents have the option stay in the communities that they call home.
“For generations, public housing has provided a critical bridge out of poverty for millions of Americans. Today, that bridge is crumbling due to chronic underfunding and neglect,” said Ranking Member Waters. “Particularly in the midst of the current rental housing crisis, it is unconscionable that we have lost approximately 200,000 units of public housing since 2000, and we continue to lose more every year. In this time of great need, we should all be coming together to find ways to fully support public housing and ensure that it continues to remain a critical component of our social safety net. This does not happen without a commitment from the federal government, including Congress and the Administration, to provide the necessary resources.”
Every year, public housing agencies are forced to demolish or sell public housing units they can no longer afford to maintain. Waters’ proposal takes a comprehensive approach to undergirding the public housing program by arming public housing agencies with the resources and tools that they need to preserve the public housing stock, preserve the public interest in those units, serve its residents, protect tenants and strengthen requirements to replace every unit that is lost.
Waters added, “For too long, the government has been inattentive in its responsibility for the care and condition of public housing. That is why we are currently faced with a rental housing crisis and homelessness epidemic; not taking action will further exacerbate these problems. We should renew our commitment to serving those most in need by demanding the full amount of funding that the public housing program so desperately requires, and providing the necessary financial tools for housing authorities to rehabilitate and preserve this important public asset.”
Providing federal dollars directly to public housing would also have positive economic impacts that go beyond the preservation of properties. For example, a recent infusion of $4 billion in funding to the public housing Capital Fund as a result of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) generated thousands of jobs and created an additional $2.12 of economic activity for every $1.00 spent by the federal government.
Ranking Member Waters continues to advocate for full and adequate funding for federal affordable housing programs, including and especially the Public Housing Program. The top Democrat has also been a leader in fighting to create and fully fund the Housing Trust Fund, a permanent federal fund that focuses on providing support to states to build, preserve and ultimately increase the supply of affordable rental housing for extremely low- and very low-income families, including homeless families. Just this week, Waters blasted Republicans for undercutting important housing programs that protect our most vulnerable populations as the House Appropriations Committee voted to approve a measure funding the nation’s housing programs.