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Congress must prioritize investments in anti-racist housing programs to truly ‘build back better’

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By Jessi Russell

The affordable housing investments made in the original budget resolution were historic and bold, totaling $ 327 billion. But now that the Biden administration and Congress are negotiating on how to reduce the original $ 3.5 trillion package – some reports say to less than $ 2,000 billion – some of the exciting new programs offered by House committees were put aside. Lawmakers should prioritize investments in restitution programs that can support housing justice organizers in the local struggle for anti-racist housing and land use policies.

The chronic shortage of affordable housing in the United States has left more than 580,000 adults and 100,000 children homeless every night, with 10 million households paying 50% or more of their income in rent, and most people with low incomes fail. can access the property. Congress needs to invest more federal dollars in programs that can increase the supply of affordable housing and preserve what is already available, but simply addressing the supply problem and deepening subsidies will not end. roaming. We must also establish programs to rectify past political choices made by federal, state and local governments that have directly contributed to the wealth and ownership disparities between black and white households.

In addition to the $ 90 billion investment in Housing Choice Bonds (HCVs) and the $ 80 billion in social housing, the text of the House bill includes new programs that, if implemented thoughtful work, would help eliminate racial inequalities. Of the $ 327 billion in total housing investments, the House Financial Services Committee has allocated nearly $ 15 billion to the following programs.

  • Community Reinvestment Fund (FRC). Recognizing that low-income communities have needs beyond housing, the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) would create a source of federal funding for civic infrastructure projects. The projects would serve existing residents in census tracts with a high concentration of poverty, as well as in areas experiencing rapid gentrification. Community organizations (CBOs) applying for these planning and implementation grants could use rewards for redevelopment efforts such as restoring vacant buildings, constructing health centers and cultural spaces, or improving of neglected land to create new parks and facilities. Last month, Senators Coons (D-DE) and Warnock (D-GA) sent a letter to leaders of Congress urging them to fully fund this new program because “civic infrastructure projects complement housing investments affordable in neighborhoods and are essential to breaking the cycle of concentrated and intergenerational poverty.
  • First generation installment assistance fund. Narrower in scope than first-time homebuyers’ programs, this fund would offer thousands of down payment supports to ‘first generation’ homebuyers, information that applicants could attest to rather than prove by documents. This fund would aim to correct racial disparities in wealth and home ownership between blacks and whites. Due to our country’s legacy of movable slavery and other racist housing practices like redlining that have multigenerational impacts, the homeownership rate for black families was less than 45% in nationwide, up from 73% for white families last year. Creating a fund specifically for first-generation homebuyers would be America’s first step in recognizing the deliberate exclusion of blacks from most of the benefit programs included in Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Project. GI law that helped build white middle class wealth. The fund could also have a positive impact on households led by Latinx, as more than 50% of Latinx people rent.

Importantly, the CRF includes $ 500 million earmarked for Community Land Trusts (CLTs), which are non-profit organizations that hold land on behalf of a local community while serving as a long-term manager of affordable housing. The First Generation Homebuyers Fund allows beneficiaries to also invest in homes kept under CLT or shared ownership. The increase in community owned land and homes protects low-income people from long-term displacement and enables communities of color to build generational wealth.

Other significant investments in the original resolution include $ 34 billion for the Housing Trust Fund, $ 4.5 billion for a program to promote inclusive zoning and $ 1.25 billion for support equitable housing activities.

To ensure that these programs are part of the minimalist package, more members of Congress must prioritize the disparities in home ownership and community reinvestment, showing their support for programs that recognize and strive to dismantle racist policies on housing and land use or to eliminate their discriminatory effects. The CRF and the Fund and for First Generation Home Buyers both meet these objectives.

If Congress does not invest in programs that protect access, fight discrimination, and invest in community, we risk excluding Blacks, Indigenous people and immigrants from federally funded avenues to build wealth. . Policymakers can’t leave people of color out of another unique opportunity to achieve economic security.


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