After a four-month uphill battle between House Democrats and Republicans, President Biden’s $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is finally law. However, more than $250 billion allocated for affordable housing in the “Build Back Better” portion of the original bill was noticeably missing.

After a four-month uphill battle between House Democrats and Republicans, President Biden’s $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is finally law.

The Act, which was halved from the original budget of $2.3 trillion, allocates:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects
  • $16 billion for major projects that don’t qualify for other sources of funding, such as grants
  • $11 billion for transportation safety
  • $1 billion for the redesign of street grids in predominantly minority communities
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $12 billion for intercity rail service partnership grants
  • $65 billion for nationwide broadband internet access
  • $42 billion for ports and airports
  • $7.5 billion for zero- and low-emission buses and ferries
  • $7.5 billion for a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers
  • $65 billion for electric grids
  • $105 billion for water systems
  • $21 billion for Superfund and brownfield site clean up

The final draft is noticeably missing much of Biden’s plans to address the affordable housing crisis, which included $213 billion to produce, maintain and retrofit more than two million housing units and $40 billion to improve the nation’s public housing.

“Millions of families pay more than half their income on rent, and home energy costs are a significant concern for American renters as well,” the White House said of the bill in April. “And, across the country, people are struggling to purchase their first home.”

“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,” it added in reference to its public housing proposals. “These improvements will disproportionately benefit women, people of color, and people with disabilities.”

In the hour after the bill signing, The National Association of Realtors President Charlie Oppler lauded Congress for taking steps to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure, saying it will make communities “more resilient and sustainable.”

“NAR is encouraged by the bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill,” he said in a prepared statement. “We supported many elements of this legislation, including significant investment in the power grid, managing climate risks, and repairing and replacing aging roads, bridges, ports, airports, and railways. These improvements will make communities more resilient and sustainable.”

Charlie Oppler

“We also commend Congress for including a historic $65 billion investment in broadband,” he added. “Our country has a dire need for broadband expansion, and NAR has long championed this cause. This new funding will ensure all communities have affordable access to a world-class communications infrastructure and provide opportunities to rural, underserved, and low-income areas.”

Oppler also highlighted how the bill failed to directly address affordable housing issues and urged Congress to pass additional legislation that will help homeowners and homebuyers.

“While this bill contains critical investments in America, we continue to have concerns over the use of guarantee fees charged by GSEs as a funding source,” he said. “The nation faces critical challenges as Americans struggle to meet their mortgage obligations, find affordable housing amidst a supply shortage, and confront a widening homeownership gap among racial groups.”

“We look forward to working with Congress and the administration to ensure this redirected money does not diminish the vital GSE mission to provide affordable housing and equal access to credit in America,” he added.

Diane Yentel | Photo credit: National Low Income Housing Coalition

Several housing advocacy groups have released similar statements on social media and asked the Biden Administration to deliver on its promises regarding down payment assistance and other affordability measures.

“The infrastructure deal will add infrastructure-related jobs to the economy, but the NHC finds that in many places, homeownership will be out of reach for these workers,” the National Housing Conference tweeted on Monday. “However, with targeted downpayment assistance, access to homeownership could be expanded.”

National Low Income Housing Coalition President Diane Yentel tweeted soundbites from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during today’s bill signing that recognized missing housing legislation. “This legislation, as significant as it is, as historic as it is, is Part 1 of 2,” Yentel quoted Harris. “Congress must also pass the Build Back Better Act.”

“Congress must also pass the Build Back Better Act to bring down the costs of housing,” Yentel added in a second tweet quoting Biden. “I’m confident we’ll pass this bill.”

Email Marian McPherson

NAR
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