Early February saw Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) introduced the Restoring Communities Left Behind Act to the House of Representatives. The legislation outlines a plan that, if enacted, will allocate $5 billion for "neighborhood revitalization" between fiscal years 2021 and 2031. The goals are to increase homeownership, create jobs, stabilize residential and commercial property values, and meet other neighborhood needs.
It will run as a competitive grant program from the Department of Housing and Urban Development aimed at promoting "housing justice." Congresswoman Tlaib explained that the act "is a major step in reversing decades of discriminatory policy. This legislation will turn homeownership from a possibility to a reality for so many who have been left out, as well as ensures many others have the ability to maintain and stay in their homes in good condition.'
The bill includes funding for communities hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, but is focused on communities that have been repeatedly left out of other revitalization programs in the past, and especially those that have been impacted by systemic racism. The hope is that this bill will help to uplift communities that were suppressed through the process of redlining; communities that the bill highlights are "still suffering from the effects of underwater mortgages, vacancy, abandoned properties, blight, aging housing stock, properties with deferred maintenance and harmful materials such as lead, asbestos, and mold, unemployment, and population loss". The idea is to invest in these "left behind" communities, which will in turn create jobs and kickstart equitable economic recovery.
Tony Picket, CEO of the Grounded Solutions Network, explains, 'Congresswoman Kaptur and Congresswoman Tlaib truly understand that the enduring impacts of redlining need to be rectified. Her bill does just that by providing critical affordable housing and community investment to targeted disinvested neighborhoods.'
Grants will be awarded to eligible local partnerships who meet a few conditions. Firstly, they must be a nonprofit organization which specializes in community revitalization and development. Secondly, the community in which they operate must meet at least four of the criteria for economic distress. These include low rates of homeownership, high levels of vacant property, racial disparities in homeownership, high rates of unemployment, and population loss.
These partners will put the money to use in maintenance and development. They may help current residents with housing counseling, property tax relief, investing in energy efficiency, and other programs. The partners may also use the grants to purchase vacant or abandoned properties and establish land trusts to build affordable housing and renting opportunities. They may provide downpayment assistance to new homebuyers, support community planning and outreach, and otherwise invest in programs consistent with the goals of the legislation. 'Reducing blight and increasing the supply of affordable homeownership and rental will boost local property values and help build wealth for individuals and communities," said Julia Gordon, President of the National Community Stabilization Trust.
As this bill is newly under consideration in the House, and must pass through the House, Senate, and President before being ratified, no community partners have yet been named. However, the legislation was endorsed by a number of nonprofit organizations, which it can be assumed will be seeking grants under this Act. These include the National Community Stabilization Trust, Center for Community Progress, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Grounded Solutions Network, Habitat for Humanity, Detroit People's Platform, Bridging Communities, the United Community Housing Coalition, and the National Community Action Foundation.