February 1, 2018

Congress Should Include Housing in Any Infrastructure Package

During the State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump called on Congress to write an infrastructure bill that "generates" at least $1.5 trillion of investment in the nation’s infrastructure. The president stipulated that all federal infrastructure investments should be leveraged by state and local government funding or private sector financing.

While the president called for investment in roads, bridges, railways and waterways, he did not mention a critically needed part of our national infrastructure: affordable housing.

In response to the State of the Union address, Enterprise President and CEO Terri Ludwig released a statement saying “housing is fundamental to our national infrastructure and must be part of any infrastructure plan. Opportunity for Americans begins with affordable, well-designed homes in thriving communities,” and that creating more affordable homes is “a must to promote equitable outcomes for working families and to reach our full potential as a nation.”

An Investment to Create More Affordable Homes Must Be a Part of Any Infrastructure Package.

The need for more affordable homes is overwhelming — 11 million households nationwide spend more than half of their income on rent. Families with so little money left after the rent are forced to make painful choices between affording prescriptions, food and transportation.

A safe and stable home is a foundation for families to succeed in other areas of life. Medical professionals know that housing conditions have a profound impact on health outcomes. Enterprise board member Dr. Megan Sandel notes that housing is a "vaccine" for the children she sees and that without it, many of her patients have little hope for healthy futures. Research also shows a clear link between housing conditions and student achievement in the classroom.

A press statement from the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding yesterday notes that investments in affordable housing infrastructure not only create more homes but also boost productivity and economic growth and support local job creation.

The shortage of affordable homes in America is a barrier holding working families back from moving up the ladder and accessing greater economic opportunity. As a result, our communities and economy pay the price. An adequate supply of affordable homes near good paying jobs improves economic growth as households can afford to live where they can earn more. Recent research shows that the affordable housing shortage in major metropolitan areas costs the American economy about $1.6 trillion a year in lower wages and productivity.

Building New Homes Creates Jobs Quickly

In addition to serving a great need, building new affordable homes creates jobs fast. Affordable housing infrastructure investments pay out more quickly than transportation infrastructure so that construction workers get out on the job sooner. Andrew Jakabovics, Enterprise’s vice president for policy development and research, wrote that an infrastructure package should consider both the magnitude of impact and speed of investment when considering infrastructure projects. Jakabovics writes, “by both metrics, public investment in housing infrastructure matches or outpaces that of public investment in transportation infrastructure.”   

At Enterprise, we know first-hand the catalytic impact the federal government can have in communities when it invests in housing.  Over the past 35 years, Enterprise has invested $28.9 billion to create or preserve nearly 470,000 affordable homes. These investments create opportunity for families and boost local economies. Federal investment plays a key role nearly every deal we make.

The Trump administration has publicly recognized the need to invest our nation’s affordable housing infrastructure. In her testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, HUD Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude stated, “we must recognize that housing is not just a commodity but a foundation for economic mobility and personal growth.”  We encourage the administration and Congress to take the opportunity to invest in affordable homes in any infrastructure legislation they consider.

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