This week, the Senate is poised to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package that – though it does not include housing – paves the way for progress on a second infrastructure package that may include the most significant investments in affordable housing in decades. After years of false starts, we are seeing real progress towards finally making many long-overdue investments in our nation’s infrastructure. And as the housing community has been saying for years, housing is infrastructure.
While the bipartisan infrastructure package focuses generally on ‘traditional’ and ‘hard’ infrastructure like roads and bridges, congressional leadership and the White House have made clear that a second legislative package, focused on ‘human’ infrastructure priorities, must advance hand-in-hand. This second package, currently under development, could total up to $3.5 trillion and will include many Democratic priorities that would advance through the budget reconciliation process, in which only Democratic votes are needed. While we do not yet know how much funding will be devoted to housing, it is incumbent on housing advocates to make sure housing gets the share it deserves.
The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, NHC and our partners in the ACTION Campaign are working hard to ensure that the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is expanded and strengthened as part of this second infrastructure package. We are advocating to advance key provisions from the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), including increasing the annual Housing Credit allocation, increasing access to Private Activity Bond resources used to finance affordable housing by lowering the bond financing threshold, and other proposals to strengthen the Housing Credit. Taken together, the proposals in the AHCIA could finance the development of more than 2 million additional affordable homes over the next decade than otherwise possible.
Though the AHCIA has broad bipartisan support – with more than 126 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle co-sponsoring the legislation since it was reintroduced in April – we are currently focused on activating its Democratic supporters, whose voices will determine which priorities are included in the reconciliation package. An expansion of the Housing Credit was a key pillar of the affordable housing component of President Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure proposal, as well as last year’s House infrastructure legislation, the Moving Forward Act. Still, many Democratic priorities could be left out of the reconciliation package, especially if negotiations ultimately reduce the total cost of the bill.
That is why right now, we need Democratic members of Congress to urge House and Senate leadership to include the Housing Credit as part of the reconciliation package under development. Our lead House AHCIA sponsor, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), is currently circulating a House sign-on letter to leadership doing just that (and which closes this Friday, August 13th), and we are calling on Senators to make the same case to Majority Leader Schumer. Please consider reaching out to the members of Congress who represent you or the areas in which you work to ask them to weigh in, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any assistance. In the coming weeks or months, we have a very real opportunity to provide hundreds of thousands, if not more, additional affordable homes through resources provided in the reconciliation bill; but we can’t wait. For the people we could provide affordable homes, for the long-lasting community assets we could build, and for the jobs we could create, we need all hands on deck.
Emily Cadik is executive director of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition.