Draft of Economic Recovery Plan Released by House Democrats Includes Over $5B for Improvement of Affordable Housing

By Anuradha Ker, Online Editor Washington, D.C.–The House Democrats this week released an expansive economic recovery plan that calls for $550 billion in spending and aid to states and $275 billion in tax cuts.As a part of this plan, they also released a draft Economic Recovery bill that includes a $2.5 billion investment to repair and green U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) assisted affordable multifamily housing. If approved, this investment will create immediate jobs, improve housing conditions for many low-income families and seniors, and save taxpayer dollars in the long run. Energy costs are consuming an increasing proportion of operating expenses in affordable multifamily housing. HUD currently expends more than $5 billion annually on heating, lighting, and cooling its portfolio of public and assisted housing. HUD’s energy costs have increased by 13.5 percent since 2006. The bill would also provide $5 billion for capital improvements to the public housing stock. Up to $1 billion of this amount may be allocated for competitive grants that will be used for, among other things, energy retrofits or preserving public housing near transit.If approved, the proposed draft Economic Recovery bill would provide the following:$2.5 billion for grants or loans to owners for energy retrofit investments in properties receiving Section 202/811 or Section 8 project-based assistance.The loans or grants shall be provided through the Office of Affordable Housing Preservation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.Eligible owners must have at least a satisfactory management review rating, be in substantial compliance with applicable performance standards and legal requirements, and commit to an additional period of affordability determined by the Secretary.The Secretary may set aside funds for an efficiency incentive payable upon satisfactory completion of energy retrofit investments, and may provide additional incentives if such investments resulted in extraordinary job creation for low-income and very low income persons.According to the National Housing Trust, this could result in immediate GREEN job creation and economic benefits. A $2.5 billion investment in affordable housing would provide $25 billion in economic benefits to the surrounding community. According to a recent Oregon Housing Finance Agency study, for every $1 invested in affordable housing, an additional $10-$15 of economic benefit was generated to the surrounding communities.