NAC Blog: Infrastructure Deal Struck? It’s all politics now

Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action

July 1, 2021

Qué onda mi gente?!

Infrastructure. This term has been thrown around a lot. This is all that Congress is talking about, all that President Biden is talking about, and quite frankly, a lot of what we’ve been focused on this year as the National Advocacy Committee.

But what is infrastructure? We usually think of bridges, roads, and transportation when we think of infrastructure, public projects that get us from one place to another. By this definition, broadband and internet are definitely infrastructure – as that is the way we travel (zoom meetings!) and communicate in today’s world. Infrastructure spending has historically been something both Republicans and Democrats are in favor of, it is many times what politicians run on. But in this political environment, EVERYTHING is politicized. We are the only country to have politicized the pandemic the way that we did, and of course, the infrastructure debate is no different.

So where does this leave housing and this once-in-a-generation opportunity to spur the production of new homes to meet the demand driven by our nation’s Latino population? Well… not sure. All the news headlines are reporting that the Republicans, Democrats, and President Biden finally struck a deal on infrastructure, but by the looks of it, it’s still on shaky ground. And as of right now, the bill does not include any new housing production.

Last week, Republicans, Democrats, and President Biden agreed on a bipartisan infrastructure deal

What’s included: A bipartisan group of 21 Senators and President Biden agreed on a package that would include investments in roads, bridges and major projects, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, broadband (Wi-Fi), airports, and ports. No housing.

How will these projects be paid for? The compromise for these projects occurred because there were no changes to the tax codes set in 2017 during the Trump Administration. This package would be paid for by:

  • Redirecting unused unemployment insurance relief funds
  • Repurposing unspent emergency relief funds from the CARES Act and other emergency relief legislation enacted in 2020
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Private activity bonds, direct pay bonds, and asset recycling for infrastructure investment

Here’s the catch: Both camps have conditions that don’t really align with one another and if housing is our goal… I’m not sure who wins.

  • The deal above is a bipartisan agreement, meaning there is Democrat and Republican support for it.
  • Democrats and President Biden have stated that they will ONLY vote for this paired down package if, and only if, another package is passed, The American Families Plan, that includes additional support including child care AND housing….
  • BUT, in order for the second bill to pass (that would include housing), it would have to be a Democrat-only bill, meaning that all 50 Dem Senators would have to vote for the bill.
  • Moderate Democrat Senators Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) will only vote for the second bill IF there is bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill.
  • BUT, Republicans are not on board with The American Families Plan mostly because to pay for it there would be changes to the 2017 tax plan.
  • Like my mom would say, “mmmm, pues.” A quien le duele la cabeza?

So what’s our play?

There are some bills we might be able to get through the bipartisan bill, such as the Yes in My Backyard Act which eases zoning restrictions. We will continue to put pressure on our elected officials to ensure that HOUSING IS INFRASTRUCTURE and that we don’t lose this opportunity to make major investments into addressing our housing shortage – whether it’s in this bill or the next, the negotiation is not over and we don’t stop.

This is politics mi gente. We have to learn the game. But until then…..Happy 4th of July. Please enjoy your families. We’ve all had quite a year and deserve this break. Los quiero!

About Noerena Limón

Noerena Limón is NAHREP’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Industry Relations. Noerena heads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts on issues ranging from homeownership, housing inventory, credit access and immigration.

Prior to joining NAHREP, Noerena spent six years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and served as a political appointee under President Obama in the White House Office of Political Affairs.