Sens. Klobuchar, Kaine reintroduce bill to create housing policy plans, boost supply

By Real Estate News

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) have reintroduced their Housing Supply and Affordability Act to the U.S. Senate in the hope of establishing a new grant program that would fund local government efforts to develop and implement housing policy plans.

Announced on Thursday, the proposed bill would “provide technical assistance to help states, localities, and regional coalitions increase housing supply, improve housing affordability, and reduce barriers to new housing development while avoiding the displacement of current residents,” according to an announcement.

With Klobuchar and Kaine teaming up on the Senate bill, there is also a version in the U.S. House of Representatives being spearheaded by Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio).

“Access to stable, quality housing is key to expanding economic opportunities for families but right now, the housing market is inaccessible for far too many,” Klobuchar said in the Senate announcement of the move. “This legislation will give state and local governments critical resources to improve affordability and expand access to quality housing where it’s needed the most.”

Kaine described how a lack of affordable housing is a consistent complaint he receives from his Virginia constituents, while realizing the national scale of the affordable housing supply issue.

“[T]he housing needs in one part of the country aren’t necessarily the same as another,” Kaine in the statement. “That’s why this legislation would enable localities to engage with their residents to identify the strategy to boost housing supply that works for their community. As a former fair housing attorney, I’ve seen the difference a reliable, safe roof overhead can make for a family, and I urge my colleagues to join us in working to make affordable housing more accessible for all.”

Specifically, the bill would establish a $300 million competitive grant program annually over five years, which would be available to state and local governments.

Successful recipients must “demonstrate rising housing costs or projected rising housing costs to develop a housing plan that would increase housing supply in an area while avoiding the displacement of residents in the area,” the announcement stated.

At least 10% of such funds would need to be allocated for rural development. Grants would be prioritized based on “housing plans that would increase affordable housing access for individuals of every race and income level, reduce barriers to affordable housing development, and avoid the displacement of residents,” the announcement explained.

While the effort is designed to impact affordable housing availability, some political and housing observers have noted that lawmakers have little control over more persistent impediments to the construction of affordable housing, namely a lack of supply and local zoning ordinances.

Still, lawmakers are feeling pressure from voters to act on the issue, since many congressional seats and the presidency will be contested in November. Voters are likely to judge the actions of lawmakers in addressing affordable housing challenges.