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Waters, Harris unveil plan to boost affordable housing investments

WASHINGTON — House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters is sponsoring legislation to invest billions of dollars in affordable housing.

The California Democrat on Thursday introduced a bill, the Housing is Infrastructure Act, which is aimed at alleviating the public housing capital backlog and improving living conditions for low-income households. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is running for president, introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“Too many Americans are fighting tooth and nail to keep a roof over their heads as our nation continues to face a housing affordability and homelessness crisis,” Harris said in a joint press release. “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.”

Waters added that the legislation will ensure that affordable housing will be a part of broader infrastructure investments.

“Studies have shown that neglecting our housing infrastructure will only hurt our economy, so I urge my colleagues to support this legislation to make the necessary investments in rural, suburban and urban housing markets, and ensure all future conversations around infrastructure investments include affordable housing,” Waters said in the press release.

Specifically, Waters' legislation would allocate $70 billion to address the public housing capital backlog and $100 million to help rural, low-income elderly households.

The bill also includes investments of $5 billion for the Housing Trust Fund and $2.5 billion toward the Capital Magnet Fund for competitive grants to Community Development Financial Institutions.

Additionally, Waters' bill would require 10% of funds authorized to be used for sustainable features such as energy-efficiency retrofits, including those that reduce utility costs for residents.

Harris' bill is not the first piece of legislation related to affordable housing from a Democratic presidential candidate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., proposed last year investments of $445 billion into the Housing Trust Fund and $25 billion in the Capital Magnet Fund in legislation to overhaul the Community Reinvestment Act.

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