As two huge dual track infrastructure bills are negotiated, Congress should seize the opportunity to prioritize the chief concerns of working families in both California and the Inland Empire: a lack of affordable housing and ever-increasing rents.
Housing instability in our region puts harmful pressure on families and threatens the stability they depend on to maintain their careers and support the studies of school age children.
Congress and the President are working on two bills right now: the $1 trillion bipartisan “traditional infrastructure” bill that focuses on roads, bridges, and electrical grids, and the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill working its way through the complicated reconciliation process.
The size and details of this second bill, the reconciliation bill, are being negotiated and debated right now behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. and publicly all across the country.
The reconciliation bill has the opportunity to make a once in a generation investment in housing and affordable housing for American families.
For the future and security of families across the Inland Empire — and also across California and the nation — Congress must make sure that significant affordable housing commitments stay in the reconciliation bill. Affordable housing must be a priority.
Just how dire is the affordable housing crisis for families in the Inland Empire?
According to this year’s Affordable Housing Needs Report published by the California Housing Partnership, in San Bernardino County 79 percent of extremely low-income households pay more than half of their income on housing costs. In Riverside County, 80 percent of extremely low-income households pay more than half of their income on housing.
The need for affordable housing in Inland Southern California is drastic. More than 50,000 low-income renter households in Riverside County need affordable homes but do not have access to one. In San Bernardino County, it’s almost 60,000 low income families. Together in these two counties more than 110,000 low-income renter households don’t have affordable housing but need it.
This is a staggering shortfall. So how can we address it?
Despite significant commitments from the state — and we hope that increases as well — the biggest funding source for affordable housing construction in the Inland Southern California region is the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Block grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are also significant.
And what has been negotiated so far in the reconciliation bill for housing? The Ways and Means Committee allocated almost $30 billion in LIHTC, which would fund almost 1.4 million affordable homes over the next decade, including an estimated more than 20,000 in the Inland Empire.
Politics is complicated, and there is pressure to make a deal. As negotiations whittle down the proposed amount of spending, there is fear in the affordable housing community that LIHTC funding and other housing dollars will end up on the cutting room floor. The alternatives to the originally proposed human infrastructure bill threaten the opportunity to address our housing crisis. We must not let our housing stability end up a victim to the negotiating process.
Congress and the president — and especially congressional members who represent the Inland Southern California region, including Senators Padilla and Feinstein — should not let this happen. We urge our elected leaders to prioritize affordable housing in the reconciliation infrastructure bill.
This bill is about making a commitment to human infrastructure that will last for the next two generations. There is nothing more important to daily human life than having a safe affordable home for you and your loved ones.
(The Inland SoCal Housing Collective is made up of more than 140 members who are working to create solutions to improve housing outcomes for renters, homebuyers, homeowners, and those experiencing homelessness through education, advocacy and access to resources in the Inland SoCal region.)