Two new affordable housing bills were introduced in Congress late April, the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act and the Public Housing Fire Safety Act. In addition, the House Financial Services Committee released a discussion draft of the Housing is Infrastructure Act of 2021. Each proposal aims to capitalize on the ongoing discussion of a potential infrastructure package and aims to preserve and expand the existing stock of affordable housing.
The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) would invest $172 billion in green retrofits for public housing units and aims to make the 950,000 housing units net zero carbon emitters. The proposal’s supporters say it would reduce overall carbon emissions, reduce water bills, and reduce energy bills for public housing units, all while creating an estimated 240,000 jobs. The Act is the first of several anticipated proposals from Democratic lawmakers looking to broaden Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Public Housing Fire Safety Act, sponsored by Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) would create a new grant program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fund the installation of sprinkler systems in older, dilapidated apartment buildings.
The Housing is Infrastructure Act, while not officially introduced, is under discussion and includes substantial investments in preserving public housing. The funds will go towards repairing public housing, investing in the Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve more affordable housing, and promoting equitable development and fair housing practices.
The focus on housing recently by lawmakers casts a much-needed light on the importance of safety and affordability as the country continues navigating the consequences of the pandemic and the affordable housing crisis. Continued discussion of housing solutions and housing as infrastructure marks a shift in the eyes of lawmakers as they search for policy solutions to growing housing needs.