Senator Warren Reintroduces Public Housing Restoration Bill

Existing public housing stock faces a $70 billion backlog of repairs.



Existing public housing stock faces a $70 billion backlog of repairs.



Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently reintroduced the Public Housing Emergency Response Act. The legislation provides a one-time $70 billion appropriation to address the backlog of public housing maintenance and repairs. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Senator Warren as original cosponsors. And Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced a companion bill (H.R.307) in the House of Representatives in January 2023.

PHA funding sources. Public housing agencies (PHAs) own and operate approximately one million units of federally subsidized public housing, providing affordable housing to families, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and veterans. Funding for public housing comes from two sources: the Operating Fund, which covers day-to-day maintenance and operations, and the Capital Fund. PHAs use Capital Fund dollars to repair and improve their public housing sites and buildings, address deferred maintenance needs, and replace obsolete utility systems.

Estimate of underfunding. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates there’s a $70 billion backlog of repairs to the existing public housing stock. And with the Public Housing Capital Fund being underfunded for so long, approximately 10,000 units are lost every year because they are no longer habitable.

Housing and public health. The language of the bill states that housing quality is an important determining factor in public health. As an example, the bill cites New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the largest public housing authority in the U.S., as having a capital repair backlog estimated at more than $40 billion. According to the bill’s language, NYCHA residents suffer from a consistent lack of hot water, insufficient heat during the winter months, rodent and insect infestations, broken elevators, and widespread and recurring lead and mold problems.

The bill states that due to its aging infrastructure, the living conditions in public housing are causing severe health consequences for public housing residents throughout the United States, including asthma, respiratory illness, and elevated blood lead levels. And children living in public housing have higher odds of asthma than children living in all types of private housing, even after adjusting for individual risk factors, including ethnicity and race, living in a low-income household, and living in a low-income community.

Chances of passage. While the bill could pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate, getting the bill to be considered on the floor of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would be very hard considering the politics of an election year and the narrow margins the political parties operate from in that chamber.