Proposal to include housing in economic stimulus

President-elect Obama has proposed a massive highway construction and public building energy retrofitting effort to serve as the basis of an economic stimulus program.  The National Low Income Housing Coalition has proposed that low-income housing initiatives be included as part of the stimulus effort.

Specifically the Coalition has recommended the following…

  • Capitalize the new National Housing Trust Fund at $10 billion for two years to rehabilitate or build 100,000 rental homes for the lowest income households using green standards.
  • Fund 400,000 new Housing Vouchers at $3.6 billion for two years to provide the lowest income households with rent assistance.
  • Fund the homelessness prevention component of the Emergency Shelter Grant program at $2 billion for two years to prevent low income households from becoming homeless and to rapidly rehouse those that do lose their homes; 400,000 households will be assisted.
  • Fund the Public Housing Capital Fund at $5 billion for two years to upgrade public housing using green standards.
  • Provide $3 billion for two years to upgrade federally assisted multi-family housing using green standards.

In addition the Coalition suggests two additional policy proposals…

We also recommend two no-cost policy proposals to be included in the economic recovery package. One will assure renters get adequate notice to vacate properties in foreclosure and assure continuity of federal housing assistance for voucher holders who lose their homes due to foreclosure. The other will allow pending Low Income Housing Tax Credit developments that have stalled due to lack of investors to move forward immediately.

Today’s Washington Post notes that many interest groups are requesting their projects be included in the stimulus plan.  The danger being that many of the projects being proposed may not be ready to be built and thus will not have the desired stimulus effect.

The potential for massive new spending has touched off a frenzy among interest groups eager to claim their share of the expanding stimulus pie. The profusion of requests from governors, transportation groups, environmental activists and business organizations is spawning fears that the package could be loaded with provisions that satisfy important Democratic constituencies but fail to provide the jolt needed to pull the nation out of a deepening recession.

Certainly low-income housing meets the standards for inclusion in the stimulus package.  It can be built quickly – doubtless faster than highway projects.  The proposal of the National Low Income Housing Coalition spells out detailed time lines to put the funds to work quickly and effectively.  Equally importantly the proposal provides housing for those who suffer most from the current economic conditions