HUD Secretary Testifies on Importance of the American Jobs Plan
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently testified in a joint hearing on the American Jobs Plan for the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The infrastructure plan seeks to expand affordable housing, and the joint hearing focused on how housing and transit work together to support communities and jobs, and the importance of housing as infrastructure.
The American Jobs Plan would allocate $213 billion in tax credits, federal spending, and grants to create and repair 2 million affordable homes. In her testimony, Secretary Fudge focused on the ways that “yesterday’s lack of investment” is driving the affordable housing crisis through lack of supply of housing units and state of disrepair of existing housing units. And Secretary Buttigieg highlighted how the relationship between housing and transit infrastructure impacts families who must choose between “living impossibly far from work to afford housing,” relying on aging transit systems in need of repair, or “paying more for housing than they can afford in order to have a reasonable commute.”
During the hearing, Secretary Fudge stressed how the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the affordable housing shortage. Housing prices continued to climb while limiting the construction of new homes. “To pass an infrastructure plan that fails to address our affordable housing crisis would be akin to building a road that leads to nowhere,” Fudge stated.
Buttigieg and Fudge made the case that a successful infrastructure plan would not only repair roads, bridges, railways, and waterways, the traditional focus of such infrastructure packages, but transform relationships among people, businesses, and communities to bolster the economy. “Our lowest-income Americans are spending more on housing and transportation than they’re taking in each month,” Buttigieg said. “Building transit and affordable housing alongside each other can be transformational for communities and families.”
While there is bipartisan support for measures such as loosening zoning laws and other regulations that make it harder to build affordable housing, Democrats say a massive investment in public housing is also essential to help limit the pain felt by households. Republicans, however, would instead allocate more money toward voucher programs instead of public housing.
At the hearing, several GOP senators argued that taking measures to expand affordable housing will limit, not improve, the ability of struggling Americans to eventually own a home. “In many, many cases, public housing has become places where people don’t really want to live. There are notorious stories of concentrations of poverty and crime and other social ills,” Senator Toomey said.
Fudge responded that while public housing may be less than ideal, it’s far better than letting more Americans fall into housing insecurity or homelessness. “You know what, senator, I agree with you 100 percent. The problem is that we have people who live in public housing and we do not have enough housing for the demand, and so we still have to take care of the people,” she said. “Even though I agree that we do need to find ways to move people into other housing within communities with better opportunities, we still have to deal with the issue we currently have.”