November 18, 2019

Senator Warren Introduces Senate Companion Bill to Ensure Our Nation's Public Housing is Healthy and Safe

The Public Housing Emergency Response Act will provide a one-time, $70 billion appropriation to address the backlog of public housing maintenance and repairs

Approximately 10,000 housing units are lost every year

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today announced she will introduce the Senate companion to the Public Housing Emergency Response Act. First introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), the bill would create a one-time, $70 billion appropriation into the PublicHousing Capital Fund to address the estimated $70 billion backlog of maintenance and repairs in public housing. This would allow tenants to live in safe conditions and ensure that as we fight to end the housing crisis by expanding the supply of affordable housing, we are not losing existing units to disrepair. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will cosponsor the bill.

"America's affordable housing crisis has hit families everywhere hard, but it has hit the lowest-income households the very hardest - and it is time to stop nibbling around the edges and fix the problem," said Senator Warren. "I'm glad to join Representative Velázquez in her bold effort to wipe out the backlog of public housing maintenance and repairs to ensure we aren't giving up on existing public housing as we work to expand our housing supply across the board."

"I'm proud Senator Warren has joined as my partner in this effort to sufficiently fund our nation's public housing," said Rep. Velázquez, who introduced the House version of the bill. "Across the nation, children living in public housing suffer higher rates of asthma, senior citizens in these facilities go without heat or hot water, roofs and ceilings remain leaky and elevators don't function. This constitutes a moral failure of our federal government and this bill would help reverse these decades of disinvestment. When we talk about housing rights we are discussing human rights and I'm proud to join arms with Senator Warren in putting forth this bold proposal."

"Working families in New York and across the country depend on public housing as a safe place to live. However, the long unaddressed maintenance and repairs needed in public housing have created unacceptable living conditions and expose families to potential health and safety risks in their own homes," said Senator Gillibrand. "Access to safe and affordable housing should be a basic human right in the United States, and I am pleased to join my colleagues by finally investing in our public housing system and ensuring that all American families can thrive." 

"Any plan to increase or improve the housing supply must include the preservation of existing affordable housing, particularly public housing units that serve very low-income families," said Adrianne Todman, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO). "NAHRO believes that the public housing capital backlog is upwards of $70 billion and supports Senator Warren's proposal to authorize this needed infusion of resources."

"I commend Senator Warren for introducing legislation to ensure that public housing is safe, decent, and affordable for all current and future residents," stated Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "For decades, Congress has walked away from its obligations to public housing residents, leaving far too many seniors, people with disabilities and families with young children living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions. It is unacceptable that the federal government has allowed some public housing homes to fall into such severe disrepair. Congress should immediately enact this bill."

Here are the facts:
  • America's housing affordability crisis means 31% of all American households are classified as cost burdened - meaning they pay more than 30% of their incomes to rent their homes, making it challenging to afford other necessities; and that a person working full time making minimum wage cannot afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.
  • For low-income Americans, the problem is even worse. Today, there are only 37 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income households, which is why it is vitally important to preserve existing affordable housing, including 1.2 million units of public housing
  • However, because of years of chronic underfunding, there is an estimated $70 billion backlog of repairs to the existing public housing stock. 
  • As a result, approximately 10,000 units are lost every year and tens of thousands of residents live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.

The Public Housing and Emergency Response Act compliments the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which Senator Warren introduced in March and designed to ensure that working families everywhere can find a decent place to live at a decent price. Representative Cedric Richmond (LA-02) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would build or rehabilitate about 3 million units over the next decade and fully close the current gap between affordable housing demand and supply; create 1.5 million new jobs at its peak impact; bring down rents for lower-income and middle-class families by 10%, saving families an average of $100 per month; and produce no long-term deficit impact. The bill also provides down payment assistance for homebuyers living in formerly-redlined neighborhoods, a first step in addressing the effects of decades of housing discrimination on communities of color.