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Advocates call on top Democrats for $100B in housing investments

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Advocates are calling on top Democratic lawmakers to allocate $100 billion for housing investments in the party’s multi-trillion reconciliation bill.

© Greg Nash Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.

Three civil rights and fair housing groups penned a letter to top House and Senate Democrats on Monday, urging them to include the money in targeted first-generation down payment assistance in the $3.5 trillion bill to “take an initial step to reverse the harms of government-sponsored discrimination in the nation’s housing finance system.”

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The groups contended that such discrimination has “created today’s persistent racial homeownership and wealth gaps,” and argued that new investments could potentially create 5 million new homebuyers.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development and the National Fair Housing Alliance signed the letter, which was first obtained by Politico.

It was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The letter comes as Democrats are working to negotiate the massive bill, which is set to include key legislative priorities such as investments in Medicaid, combating climate change and addressing immigration reform.

The party is at odds over the price tag – which currently sits at $3.5 trillion – as some moderate members are concerned that the figure is too high.

Democrats must band together if they want to pass any legislation in the evenly split Senate.

The advocates also voiced concern for the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act – or LIFT America Act – arguing that the legislation will not help expand homeownership or create racial equity by addressing the impact of discriminatory federal housing policies, but instead help families that are being “well-served” the the housing finance structure.

“The LIFT Act is directing limited resources from critical legislation targeted down payment assistance for first-generation homebuyers, which we adamantly oppose,” they wrote.

They said it is “past time to take meaningful steps to address our nation’s racial wealth and homeownership gaps with the same intentionality that produced those gaps.”

The letter follows a statement from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who on Sunday said the reconciliation package “falls short” on housing assistance, which he said is important to increasing home ownership and closing the racial wealth gap.

He said he will work with his colleagues to make “wealth creation more accessible to historically disadvantaged communities.”

The Hill has reached out to the lawmakers for comment.

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