Harris, Waters release $100 billion affordable housing bill

Greg Nash

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced a bill Thursday to invest more than $100 billion in federal programs to reduce the national shortage of affordable housing.

The bill from Harris, a 2020 presidential candidate, and Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, directs tens of billions of dollars to repair federally subsidized housing and increase grants to build and support affordable housing.

Called the Housing is Infrastructure Act, the measure would spend $70 billion to clear a backlog of repairs and upgrades to federal subsidized housing. Waters said in a statement that roughly 10,000 affordable homes are lost to a lack of maintenance each year, piling onto a national shortage of 7 million affordable homes.

“We are in the midst of a housing affordability crisis across the country,” Waters said in a statement. “Neglecting our housing infrastructure will only hurt our economy, so I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to make the necessary investments.”

Harris added that “it will take a comprehensive and serious investment to confront this issue head on, and the Housing is Infrastructure Act is our best chance to get it done.”

The bill from Waters and Harris also devotes roughly $25 billion toward grants for affordable housing construction and maintenance in low-income communities, Native American reservations, blighted rural areas and for vulnerable groups such as senior citizens and disabled individuals.

Groups ranging from the National Association of Home Builders, a trade group for housing construction companies, to affordable housing advocates, like the National Housing Conference and the National Low Income Housing Coalition, have endorsed the measure.

The proposal from two prominent California Democrats comes as the state struggles to curb a homelessness crisis driven by skyrocketing rents, rampant gentrification and restrictive development laws. Almost 130,000 Californians were homeless in 2018, primarily within the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas.  

Waters has used her perch atop the Financial Services panel to push legislation intended to fight homelessness, including a $13.2 billion measure that passed the committee in Spring.

Waters has also clashed with Trump administration officials over plans to break up homeless camps and eliminate federal housing protections for certain immigrants and transgender individuals.

The chairwoman and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson have waged a particularly vicious battle, trading accusations of “hypocrisy” and “shamelessness” in a series of letters.

“My mother always taught me that people shouldn’t throw rocks, especially while they live in a glass house,” Carson wrote to Waters in a letter this week. “Because of that wise lesson, I was a little surprised to read your hostile letter to President Trump regarding the record number of homeless Americans in California, particularly in your district.”

Carson had bashed Waters for a letter to Trump in which she slammed the president for considering widespread raids on homeless encampments in California and Texas. 

“Your shamelessness knows no bounds,” Waters wrote. “From day one of your presidency, you have attacked our democracy and now you have set your ire on the 550,000 Americans who on any given night experience homelessness.”

Waters told The Hill that “Carson is like a duck out of water” and that he has been a “complete failure at HUD.” 

Updated at 8:04 p.m. to correct the total cost of the bill after the release of updated figures by Harris and Waters

Tags Ben Carson Donald Trump Maxine Waters
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