May 20, 2024

Warren Reintroduces Public Housing Restoration Bill

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

Bill Text (PDF) 

Washington, DC - Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) reintroduced the Public Housing Emergency Response Act to address the estimated $70 billion backlog of maintenance and repairs in our nation’s public housing. This investment 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. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) joined Senator Warren as original cosponsors.

Because 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, unhealthy, and undignified conditions.  

First introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), the Public Housing Emergency Response Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2020 for the first time and complements Senator Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act

"Expanding our supply of quality housing is the only way to dig ourselves out of this housing crisis. I’m pushing for this bold investment in our public housing so that every family has a safe place to live—and to breathe new life into the countless public housing units we’ve lost to decades of neglect and disrepair," said Senator Warren.

"The public housing system was created as an affordable lifeline for working families across this country. Unfortunately, public housing units across the country are in disrepair, and conditions like mold, lead, and lack of heat are putting the health and safety of families at risk,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez. “This situation demands bold action, and we must renew our nation's commitment to public housing. I introduced the Public Housing Emergency Response Act in the House to provide the funding needed to revitalize our national public housing stock. I'm proud to partner with Senator Warren on this bill and I look forward to working together to get it passed into law."

“Outdated, unsafe, and often decades-old public housing is endangering residents’ health and safety across the country. This measure will dedicate long overdue funding to address the backlog of maintenance and repairs in public housing – helping address our nation’s housing crisis and bring homes in disrepair into the 21st century,” said Senator Blumenthal

“Public housing was created to provide safe and affordable housing for low-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Every family deserves dignified living conditions, which is why it is critical to address the severe backlog of maintenance and repairs. I’m proud to support legislation that invests in maintaining and improving our existing public housing, ensuring health and safety for all residents,” said Senator Booker.

“As our nation faces a housing crisis, public housing should be a safe and affordable option for those in need. But many of these buildings are in a severe state of disrepair. It’s the federal government’s responsibility to make adequate funding available to address the conditions of our rapidly deteriorating public housing stock.  I’m joining my colleagues to introduce the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, which is a commitment to making critical federal investments that ensure all Americans have access to safe and healthy housing,” said Senator Durbin

“Public housing that leaks, lacks proper ventilation, or that contains lead or mold causes serious health conditions. Decades of underinvestment in public housing has led to substandard living, and that is unacceptable. The Public Housing Emergency Response Act gets us closer to making the large-scale public investment necessary to ensure everyone has a decent, safe, and affordable place to live,” said Senator Markey.

“Poor housing conditions caused by aging infrastructure can lead to serious health problems, including lead poisoning, asthma, and heart disease. While there’s no quick fix, this $70 billion federal investment would go a long way to fund important infrastructure upgrades and repairs and ensure public housing in Connecticut remains clean, safe and affordable,” said Senator Murphy.

“Our national housing crisis demands comprehensive reform, including making urgently needed improvements to our public housing infrastructure. This substantial, overdue investment in critical repairs would help uplift elderly, disabled, Black, and Latino residents who disproportionately rely on public housing,” said Senator Padilla.

“Housing is an essential part of our communities, and nothing in life works without a safe and secure place to call home. We have taken decisive steps to address many of our nation’s infrastructure deficiencies. However, more must be done to address the health and safety challenges facing aging public housing that hasn’t received sufficient investment in years. This bill is an important step to addressing the immediate needs of residents while we continue to work towards larger solutions to the housing crisis,” said Senator Smith.

This bill is endorsed by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, National Housing Law Project, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA), Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Coalition on Human Needs, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and National Education Association.

“Preserving public housing must be central to any plan to address our nation’s housing and homelessness crisis, given the severe shortage of rental homes affordable and available to America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households. For decades, Congress has turned its back from its obligations to public housing residents, forcing them to choose between living in homes in severe disrepair or facing increased risks of housing insecurity and homelessness. Congress should enact Senator Warren’s Public Housing Emergency Response Act to invest $70 billion to preserve public housing for current residents and future generations and to help right this wrong," said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“Public housing provides more than 850,000 affordable homes to our nation’s seniors, persons with disabilities, low-income families and individuals, veterans and children. These homes are more than just a place to live - they're a foundation from which people can build better outcomes: improved health, education, stability and success. This vital public resource has been underfunded for decades now, with a capital fund backlog of more than $70 billion. NAHRO and its members fully support Senator Warren’s efforts to ensure that we have the resources to preserve these homes,” said Mark Thiele, CEO of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO).

“PHADA is happy to endorse the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, which will provide desperately-needed funding to ensure that housing authorities across the country can continue to provide safe and sanitary public housing to low-income families—including seniors, veterans, and families with children,” said Tim Kaiser, Executive Director of Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA).

“Public housing is a lifeline for 1.7 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have a home. With a safe roof over their heads, families can go from surviving to thriving. Many dedicated AFSCME members working in state and local housing authorities help keep these residences running, but too often funding shortages contribute to unsafe, deteriorating conditions. Sen. Warren’s Public Housing Emergency Response Act would invest billions to modernize our public housing infrastructure and address the ever-growing backlog of maintenance and repairs. AFSCME is proud to endorse this legislation, and we thank Sen. Warren for her commitment to strengthening our communities,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders.

Senator Warren is a long-time advocate for safe, quality affordable housing for American families: 

  • In April 2024, Senator Warren called out the Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBs) for failing to deliver on their mission to provide affordable housing as the country faces a housing crisis. Senator Warren also called on the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to take action as the primary regulator of the FHLBs.
  • In January 2024, Senator Warren led a letter to Federal Reserve (Fed) Chair Jerome Powell, calling on the Fed to reverse its troubling interest rate hikes that have driven mortgage rates to 20-year highs and have put affordable housing out of reach for too many Americans. 
  • In March 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren called out Wall Street real estate investors for exploiting tax breaks to buy up affordable housing, raise fees and rents, and evict families across the country. 
  • In May 2021, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren made the case for her American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, which would create a new housing innovation grant program to reduce exclusionary local zoning laws. 
  • In March 2021, Senator Warren again reintroduced Senate companion to the Public Housing Emergency Response Act.
  • In November 2019, Senator Warren led the introduction  of the Senate companion to the Public Housing Emergency Response Act, to create a one-time, $70 billion appropriation into the Public Housing Capital Fund to address the estimated $70 billion backlog of maintenance and repairs in public housing. 
  • In March 2019, Senator Warren led the reintroduction of the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act to help bring down costs for renters and buyers, level the playing field so working families everywhere can find a decent place to live at a decent price, and takes the first step to address the effects of decades of housing discrimination on communities of color.