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April 16, 2021


Raoul, Coalition Push Congress to Increase Funding in President Biden's $2.3 Trillion Infrastructure Plan to Retrofit Existing Public Housing

Chicago  — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 14 attorneys general, today urged Congress to invest in the nation's public housing systems. In a letter to congressional leadership, Raoul and the coalition express concern that while the $40 billion in funding for public housing allocated as part of President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is a good start, it is still insufficient to address the years of neglect and underfunding towards the nation's public housing systems. Raoul and the coalition estimate that the nation's public housing portfolio requires at least $70 billion for capital needs to return to a good state of repair, growing to $90 billion through 2030.

"More than 1 million American families live in public housing, and they have a right to safe, well-maintained homes where they can thrive," Raoul said. "I encourage Congress to increase funding for public housing programs to help agencies address the shortfalls they have faced over the past few decades, and allow them to make needed repairs and safety improvements."

Because of its reach and its ability to serve low-income families who might otherwise become homeless, public housing is a vital resource for cities, neighborhoods and the 1.2 million families who call it home. To keep public housing units affordable for low-income families, federal regulations cap rents at 30 percent of a family's income. While this cap ensures affordability, the amount of rent collected by the nation's 3,300 public housing agencies (PHAs) is insufficient to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the properties they oversee.

When the federal public housing program was created in 1937, it was understood that PHAs would need ongoing operating and capital support from the federal government to close the gap between the rents charged to residents and the actual cost of building operations and maintenance. The amount that each PHA is entitled to receive from the federal government is set each year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through a formula. However, Congress appropriates money to these funds, and, in most years, the appropriation does not match the total amount that PHAs require for maintenance and operations.

In recent years, Congress has not fully funded the gap between public housing rent and the cost of building operations and maintenance. For example, the amount appropriated by Congress has only matched the need, as stated by HUD, twice between 2000 and 2018. In some years, the amount appropriated has been less than 85% of the need. Further, in the past 10 years alone, the Public Housing Operations budget has been reduced by nearly $1 billion. This has resulted in a massive backlog in necessary repairs and maintenance, and has led to deteriorating and damaging conditions for the families living in public housing.

In today's letter, Raoul and the coalition call on Congress to allocate sufficient funds to address the repair backlog, a forward-facing commitment to fund capital funding gaps, and a dedicated fund for lead remediation.

Joining Raoul in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont and Virginia.

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