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Waters at Infrastructure Hearing: We Have Momentum for Serious, Equitable Investments in Our Housing System

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee virtual hearing entitled, “Build Back Better: Investing in Equitable and Affordable Housing Infrastructure.”

Today, the Committee will be focusing on the need for major investments in equitable and affordable housing infrastructure. Last month, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act to provide $1.9 trillion in critical pandemic relief, including for families facing eviction or foreclosure through no fault of their own. Now, we will address the shameful homelessness crisis and the pressing need for new affordable housing production.

So, I’m pleased that President Biden has, as part of his American Jobs Plan, recognized that housing is a critical part of our nation’s infrastructure. The plan includes $213 billion for affordable housing. President Biden’s plan will stimulate the economy, create jobs, and benefit communities across the country.

In 2019, I introduced my bill, the “Housing is Infrastructure Act,” and I have convened a number of hearings to make it clear that as the country experiences an affordable housing crisis, housing must be a major component of any infrastructure package.

Last year, the “Housing is Infrastructure Act” passed the House as part of House Democrats’ infrastructure bill, the “Moving Forward Act.”

The newest version of my bill provides over $237 billion in new funding, including $70 billion to address the capital needs of our nation’s public housing, $35 billion for the HOME Program to provide capital and rental assistance for affordable housing, as well as $45 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund and $12 billion for the Capital Magnet Fund, which together will leverage private sector investment to create new affordable housing for our country’s poorest households, including in rural and tribal areas. My bill also provides over $6 billion in grants to eliminate exclusionary local zoning barriers that have impeded construction of affordable housing.

In keeping with the spirit of the landmark civil rights legislation, the Fair Housing Act, we must ensure that this generational investment in infrastructure is distributed equitably. My bill includes $10 billion for targeted down payment assistance to help mortgage-ready renters transition into being homeowners as well as $5 billion for fair housing enforcement.

We will also discuss legislation to provide $27 billion for the creation of a new National Investment Authority that supports long-term infrastructure projects and accelerates our transition to a clean energy economy. This Committee has a key role to play in this agency’s design and will be closely coordinating with the Biden Administration.

As we explore new ideas to bolster investments in our infrastructure, we must also ensure that we are prioritizing climate resilience. 2020 was the most active hurricane season on record, and the growing costs of climate disasters serve as a reminder of the need to secure a long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program that strengthens the Program and preserves its affordability.

It is exciting that, after years of federal underinvestment in housing, we really have momentum for serious, equitable investments in our housing system. So, I look forward to discussing these measures and advancing the infrastructure package.

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