President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan sets aside $150 billion for housing affordability initiatives, a promise that — if adopted — would cast a lifeline to millions of renters and homeowners drowning in financial problems spurred by the pandemic.
The whopping $1.75 trillion spending plan, unveiled on Thursday after months of negotiating in Congress, would propel the construction and preservation of more than a million affordable housing units nationwide. It’s a win for many people experiencing housing insecurity but still represents a fraction of the previous $300-plus billion version of the plan, which would have built and protected over 3 million units.
To put these numbers in perspective, today, the country is suffering from a housing supply deficit of 3.8 million units, according to federal mortgage loan company Freddie Mac.
Still, at its current scope, the plan “would be the single most substantial federal investment in quality, stable, affordable homes for the county’s lowest income people IN HISTORY,” National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) CEO Diane Yentel said on Twitter.
The plan’s goals include “boosting housing supply and reducing price pressures for renters and homeowners,” according to White House materials. “It will address the capital needs of the public housing stock in big cities and rural communities all across America and ensure it is not only safe and habitable but healthier and more energy efficient as well.”
Some of the biggest items in the plan are $65 billion to preserve public housing, $15 billion for a national housing trust fund, and $25 billion for rental assistance.
That $25 billion would add to the existing federal rent assistance program, as well as the more than $45 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) money the U.S. Treasury Department has dispatched because of the pandemic — much of which remains unspent due to slow distribution by state and local governments.
(The Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ ERA program has been particularly troubled, having spent just 9 percent of the $552 million it was allocated in the first ERA round.)
The current version of the Build Back Better plan “will provide rental assistance to hundreds of thousands of households, the LARGEST EXPANSION of the program since its creation in 1974,” Yentel tweeted.
Additionally, per the White House announcement, “It includes one of the largest investments in down payment assistance in history, enabling hundreds of thousands of first-generation homebuyers to purchase their first home and build wealth.”
No doubt, the plan — especially after it was gutted — is a far cry from the be-all, end-all to America’s housing crisis. And with it still awaiting Congressional approval, it’s yet unclear how much of this money could be used to help Georgia and metro Atlanta.