White House “Jobs Plan” Proposes Billions for Affordable Housing Infrastructure

Legislation | March 31, 2021 | by Juliana Bilowich

In a fact sheet released by the White House on March 31, the White House outlined a $213 billion plan to produce, preserve, and retrofit the country’s affordable housing infrastructure.

On March 31, the White House outlined its new “American Jobs Plan,” which calls for approximately $2 trillion in infrastructure and workforce investments across sectors, including affordable housing and home and community-based services (HCBS). More details about the American Jobs Plan are expected to be unveiled by the President on the afternoon of March 31.

Affordable Housing in the American Jobs Plan

The White House “American Jobs Plan” fact sheet calls attention to the severe shortage of affordable housing options in America, and calls for $213 billion to “build, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings” through the following approaches:

  • Produce, preserve, and retrofit more than a million affordable, resilient, accessible, energy efficient, and electrified housing units

Through targeted tax credits, formula funding, grants, and project-based rental assistance, President Biden’s plan aims to extend affordable housing rental opportunities to underserved communities nationwide, including rural and tribal areas.

  • Build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers

President Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate steps to spur the construction and rehabilitation of homes for underserved communities. Specifically, he is calling on Congress to pass the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA), which would offer $20 billion worth of NHIA tax credits over the next five years, resulting in approximately 500,000 homes built or rehabilitated.

  • Eliminate exclusionary zoning and harmful land use policies

President Biden is calling on Congress to enact a new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate barriers to producing affordable housing.

  • Address longstanding public housing capital needs

President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $40 billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing system in America. This funding will address critical life-safety concerns, mitigate imminent hazards to residents, and undertake energy efficiency measures which will significantly reduce ongoing operating expenses. According to the White House plan, these improvements will disproportionately benefit women, people of color, and people with disabilities.

  • Put workers back to work upgrading homes and businesses

President Biden’s plan will upgrade homes through block grant programs, the Weatherization Assistance Program, and by extending and expanding home and commercial efficiency tax credits. President Biden’s plan also will establish a $27 billion Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to mobilize private investment into distributed energy resources; retrofits of residential, commercial and municipal buildings; and clean transportation. These investments have a particular focus on disadvantaged communities that have not yet benefited from clean energy investments.

Resiliency for Vulnerable Populations

The White House fact sheet also outlines a number of efforts to build resiliency among vulnerable communities through investments in disaster preparedness, safe drinking water, and internet connectivity:

  • Build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage

The President’s plan prioritizes building “future proof” broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas to reach 100 percent high-speed broadband coverage. It also prioritizes support for broadband networks owned, operated by, or affiliated with local governments, non-profits, and co-operatives—providers with less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities. Moreover, it ensures funds are set aside for infrastructure on tribal lands and that tribal nations are consulted in program administration. The plan also pledges to work with Congress to find a solution to reduce internet prices for all Americans, increase adoption in both rural and urban areas, hold providers accountable, and save taxpayer money.

  • Replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines

According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. To eliminate all lead pipes and service lines in the country, President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) grants. In addition to reducing lead exposure in homes, this investment also will reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities.

  • Safeguard critical infrastructure and services

According to the White House fact sheet, people of color and low-income people are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. They also are less likely to have the funds to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events. President Biden’s plan increases resilience in the most essential services, including the electric grid; food systems; urban infrastructure; community health and hospitals; and our roads, rail, and other transportation assets. The President’s plan will also invest in vulnerable communities through a range of programs, including FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, new initiatives at the Department of Transportation, a bipartisan tax credit to provide incentives to low- and middle-income families and to small businesses to invest in disaster resilience, and transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities.

LeadingAge Affordable Senior Housing Infrastructure Priorities

LeadingAge strongly supports infrastructure and workforce investments for the aging services fields, including affordable senior housing. In a March 26 letter to Congress, LeadingAge emphasized that “housing is infrastructure” and outlined three key priorities:

  • Expanding the supply of senior affordable housing by investing $2.5 billion in HUD’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. A $2.5 billion investment for capital advances and project rental assistance contracts will provide approximately 54,000 affordable senior homes through HUD’s Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program. Today, 2.6 million older adult renter households spend more than half of their incomes on housing, too often forcing them to choose between rent, food, and medicine. This $2.5 billion proposal is consistent with the 116th Congress’s S. 2951, H.R. 5187, and H.R. 2, the House-passed Moving Forward Act.
  • Providing internet access in affordable housing to ensure the more than 2.2 million older adults in federally subsidized affordable housing buildings have basic internet access. This can be achieved by updating HUD, Treasury, and USDA utility definitions to include broadband as a subsidized utility and updating the subsidized housing infrastructure by retrofitting units with the necessary wiring for high-quality broadband. We urge any package to include the Broadband Justice Act, H.R. 1904, which authorizes $5 billion for broadband as a utility and such sums as may be necessary for wiring and installation for HUD, USDA, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit homes.
  • Establishing a capital pool for age-friendly retrofits to meet building design needs in the HUD-subsidized housing stock. LeadingAge supports a $1 billion pool of capital funds, administered by HUD under a new Age-Friendly Retrofit Program, to help current and future older adult households live in independent housing for as long as they choose to do so.

As details of the President’s jobs and infrastructure plan are unveiled, we look forward to working with the White House and Congress to advance our key priorities for federally-assisted senior housing.