This week we learned that Bruce Willis is retiring from acting, acknowledging that he is suffering from aphasia, a tragically debilitating condition that can render one unable to speak or understand speech. First and foremost, my heart aches for him and his family. Willis’ career has ranged from Die Hard to Pulp Fiction. But his greatest role for me is that of child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe in The Sixth Sense. In the film, Dr. Crowe struggles with grief, regret, denial, and death as he ultimately realizes that it is not his wife who has died when they were attacked in their home by a former patient. He is the one who is dead. The film was honored with six Academy Award nominations, though unfairly, in my opinion, none for Willis.
Dr. Crowe is the perfect metaphor for housing in Build Back Better. Despite the hard work of hundreds of housing advocates across the political spectrum, this proposal for historic investments in desperately needed affordable housing will not occur in this Congress, and if Democrats do not turn the political tides being blown by skyrocketing inflation, not the next one either.
You don’t have to believe me; just listen to Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Jayapal was asked by MSNBC Meet the Press Daily host Chuck Todd if she could pick one priority to focus on so it might be accomplished before the end of the congressional session. She responded with five items, none of them housing. This has been true in meetings we have had with a wide range of Members of Congress. They support all the housing provisions in BBB, but will not commit to any of them being at the top of their list for focused action.
I know some continue to argue that housing may yet make it into a reduced scope version of Build Back Better before the end of the year. I worry that this thinking makes it harder to fight for desperately needed housing production legislation that can address housing’s role in increasing inflation and the critical shortage of affordable housing throughout the country.
In the limited amount of time left on the 117th Congress congressional calendar, it’s essential for us to rally around the only two elements of BBB that have bipartisan support, and address the housing supply shortage that is driving the housing affordability crisis as well as inflation. The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would restore and build more than 2.5 million affordable homes over the next ten years. These bills should be a prominent part of any tax vehicle considered by the Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, and for that to happen, they will need the vocal support of the White House and House and Senate congressional leaders. I wrote about these priorities and their role in fighting inflation in my Member Notes of February 21, 2022, and March 18, 2022.
Our journey through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, needs to conclude with action towards the future. It’s time for us to accept the painfully unacceptable. Build Back Better is dead, but housing supply legislation doesn’t have to be. It’s time for the White House and Congress to directly address housing affordability before it’s too late and inflation is out of control, severe recession is inevitable, and voters make elected politicians pay the ultimate price.