The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) could help support affordable housing if federal government officials take advantage of the opportunity to integrate housing with transportation investments.
Property improvement assistance programs often benefit renters last and least. Low-income renters, especially those living in small multifamily properties (those with 2-4 units) that are the least energy-efficient of residences, continue to be underserved by energy programs administered at all levels of government. This holds true for the national Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) managed through the US Department of Energy (DOE), though the program has been authorized to serve both renter households and multifamily housing types since its 1976 launch.
Using restricted-access data from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey containing detailed geographic information about where respondents live, this paper assesses the financial distress renter households faced by neighborhood characteristic during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April 2021 and February 2022, 23 percent of renters lost employment income in the month before they were surveyed, while 15 percent fell behind on their housing payments. But the financial distress renters faced was not evenly dispersed by neighborhood type across the country.
The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is the largest single investment in the United States' public works in decades. Over the next five years, it will fund thousands of investments in transportation and energy among several systems nationwide. Despite the IIJA’s potential to upgrade these elements of the country’s infrastructure, the appropriations noticeably overlook housing. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the Urban Institute convened a workshop of stakeholders and policymakers in Fall 2022 to identify the mechanisms that might leverage the law’s sizeable transportation investments for affordable housing’s preservation, development, and access.