Biden urged to consider how new law impacts affordable housing

A coalition of 24 housing organizations, individual leaders and trade groups, led by the National Housing Conference (NHC), are urging President Joe Biden to exempt affordable housing development and repair from the Build America, Buy America Act (BABA) provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This includes affordable homeownership repair and development programs and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-assisted and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-assisted multifamily housing.

“According to data from Zonda for March 2022, more than a third of housing providers experienced serious shortages of windows, home doors, and garage doors, while more than a fifth reported serious shortages of HVAC equipment and appliances,” the groups said in a letter submitted to the White House. “Today, according to the National Association of Home Builders, transformers are a major bottleneck in housing deliveries.”

The letter also cites a construction center labor shortage based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with a study from affordable housing advocacy organization Up for Growth, which concludes the U.S. is facing a 3.8 million unit housing shortage, to illustrate their reasoning.

“This shortage has significantly contributed to extreme growth in housing unaffordability in markets throughout the country, many of which have never experienced double-digit growth in housing costs,” the letter states. “It is also a major headwind into efforts to close the minority homeownership gap.”

The NHC believes that the impact on affordable housing will be pronounced, according to its president and CEO David Dworkin.

“As currently written, the proposed guidance would increase the cost of building affordable housing, reducing the number of units that can be developed using existing federal funding,” Dworkin said. “[The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)] must ensure that the important work of the Biden administration addressing the nation’s housing affordability crisis is not undercut.”

The signatories also note in the letter that they have had a productive working relationship with the administration and hope that the dialogue can continue.

“Many of us have worked closely with your administration on expanding minority homeownership and rental housing opportunities, and on addressing the housing supply and affordability crisis,” the letter states. “We have had highly productive meetings with a wide range of your cabinet officials and senior staff over the past 18 months to develop broad bipartisan approaches to address these issues. We hope that this work will not be undercut by policies meant to strengthen American production and employment, but could have the opposite impact.”

Other signatories include the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), former Deputy HUD Secretary Pam Patenaude and former Bank of America SVP and Director of National Relationships and Initiatives Jacqueline O’Garrow.

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