Post-Gazette: Doyle stumps for affordable housing bill; urges Senate to match $300 billion-plus price tag

The U.S. Congressman who represents Pittsburgh — a city that’s lost half of its low-cost rental units in the last two decades — is calling on the Senate to match the hundreds of billions of dollars for affordable housing that’s included in the House’s budget reconciliation bill.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said the bill drafted by the House this week includes “substantially more funding for affordable housing than [U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans] or I even dared to hope for,” and is urging the Senate to mimic that number — more than $300 billion — in its negotiations in the coming weeks.

“It will go a long way toward reversing the disinvestment we’ve seen in affordable housing over recent years and make housing affordable again for millions of American families,” Mr. Doyle said Friday at a press conference with housing advocates and Mr. Evans, D-Philadelphia, his close ally on the issue.

Lawmakers who count affordable housing as one of their top priorities have found an ally in the White House, where President Joe Biden’s administration is aiming to increase home construction though federal subsidies, a new tax credit for construction in economically vulnerable neighborhoods and the low-income housing tax credit.

Democrats in the House, advocating for the president’s “Build Back Better” plan, are operating under the belief that “it’s not enough to go back to how things were right before the pandemic,” as Mr. Evans puts it — and housing is one of those issues that has stood the test of time. Ashley McBride, state director of the progressive organizing hub For Our Future PA, cited statistics that show before the pandemic, 11 million families spent more than half their income on housing.

At the mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, researchers have estimated that the U.S. is 3.8 million homes short of what’s needed to meet demand — resulting in home prices steadily increasing, often times faster than incomes.

With too few homes available to buy and lower interest rates leading to more affluent buyers and investors paying more for homes, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index increased a record 19.1% this past June as compared to a year ago.

The Democrats’ plan in the house would include $77.3 billion for a public housing capital fund, $35 billion for home investment partnerships and $37 billion for a housing trust fund, according to Mr. Doyle’s office.

“The Build Back Better agenda offers much needed investment in housing that will help level the playing field for families who need to make tough choices between rent and mortgage and putting food on table,” Ms. McBride said.

Mr. Doyle said Congress’s legislative successes since the start of the pandemic — including the massive American Rescue Plan infusion — have helped families weather the storm of the pandemic and provide more than $50 billion in rental and mortgage assistance for struggling households. Now, it’s time to put money into housing for the future, he said, calling on the Senate to agree.