Politico

Democrats weigh slashing $200B in housing aid from spending bill


Democrats are considering cutting housing funding in President Joe Biden’s massive social spending plan to $100 billion, roughly a third of the initial amount proposed as they try to lower the cost of the bill, congressional aides said.

The potential cuts are fueling resentment among progressives, who are fighting to preserve programs proposed in what was originally a $3.5 trillion plan as centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) try to slash the size of the bill.

Public housing repairs — which were given $80 billion in the original proposal — would still receive a cash infusion under the revised framework, but $75 billion in new rental assistance through Section 8 housing vouchers was at risk of being eliminated, according to people familiar with the talks who requested anonymity.

House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — whose committee last month signed off on more than $300 billion in housing aid — said Wednesday that she opposed “deep cuts in housing.” Waters said that she and Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) — who also helped craft the proposal — “are not simply going to go along to get along” when it comes to scaling back the funds.

“We probably are going to have to give an alternative to whatever is being suggested,” she said during a press conference with Brown and housing advocates.

Congressional negotiators are closing in on a final deal. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that reaching an agreement on a framework by the end of this week is “the objective.”

The housing cuts are likely to disappoint a large swath of Democrats. This week, 125 House Democrats signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to keep $90 billion for rental assistance, $80 billion for public housing repairs and $37 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund in the final version of the bill.

Waters — who has made affordable housing a top priority throughout her time in Congress — has repeatedly pledged to fight cuts to the proposed aid. She said Wednesday that the original plan that she and Brown worked on together “is the housing bill that would deal with the housing crisis in this country.”

“We are on pins and needles as we await some of the decisions that are being made at the White House,” Waters said. “I can’t even tell you at this point what the top line is. I do know this, that the negotiations are going on about budget cuts.”

Lobbyists and aides have said for weeks that the housing portion of the legislation could be scrapped as congressional leaders and the White House seek to bring down the $3.5 trillion price tag of the overall bill to win over moderates.

Funds to shore up public housing have long been a top priority for progressives including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who earlier this year called for a minimum of $70 billion for repairs.

The elimination of additional investments to Section 8 rental assistance — a Housing and Urban Development program providing vouchers to low-income tenants so they can move to neighborhoods with more opportunity — will also hit progressives and housing advocates hard.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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