WASHINGTON, DC – Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan on Tuesday pleaded for increased infrastructure spending in Washington, asking a committee chaired by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, for federal programs to encourage private real estate development “so that we can keep existing residents in their homes, attract new residents to our city, and create markets for retail and other small businesses that can serve and employ our residents.

Horrigan told Brown’s Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that cities like his were facing major issues such as foreclosures, aging housing stock, outside landlords, banks not lending. and insufficient federal investment in housing. He called the housing “critical infrastructure”, noting that other infrastructure, such as water meters, roads, power lines, broadband fiber and sewers “ultimately connects to homes.”

“Many of the most frequently discussed and covered housing topics in national media are just not issues in cities like Akron,” Horrigan continued. “Our challenge is not the displacement of the poor by the rich or the middle class people who are excluded from the market and have to travel long distances to get to the city. Our challenge is property values ​​that are often too low to allow for stacks of capital for new home construction, or home improvement loans for residents of modest means.

Horrigan said Akron tried to maintain infrastructure built when the city was more populated. He said his working-class residents recently approved a local income tax increase for road improvements, but that money will not be enough to meet the necessary investments.

“This does not eliminate the need for a federal transportation program that focuses on maintaining the roads we already have and providing more help for alternatives to driving, such as public transit and improvements. for bikes and pedestrians, ”Horrigan said. “It doesn’t help electrify our bus fleet, replace our crumbling transit maintenance facilities, or expand rapid bus transportation to areas cut off from the regional economy.

Brown asked mayors of fast-growing cities experiencing a shortage of affordable housing if they needed federal money to help solve the problem.

“Additional dollars would help us, whether it’s additional dollars through new programs or additional dollars to see how we can access programs that already exist and allow more flexibility in some of those programs that already exist. , would be very helpful for my community, ”replied Bozeman, MT, Mayor Cyndy Andrus.

Brown said he believed the nation needed a “one-time investment in a generation to rebuild our country’s infrastructure,” citing testimony from Horrigan and other mayors at the hearing as evidence.

“When we electrified the country – from the plains to the Appalachians to the Deep South – we didn’t ask each mayor to create their own network or build their own dam,” said Brown. “When we built the interstate highway system, we didn’t expect every county to foot the bill for its stretch of highway. … Companies that depend on our public goods for their huge and growing profits should contribute to the upkeep. “

Republicans at the hearing called the $ 2,000 billion infrastructure and jobs plan that President Joe Biden’s administration proposed “untenable.” Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said the Biden administration “wants to redefine what infrastructure means in order to spend taxpayer dollars on its Green New Deal agenda and other liberal policies.” He said state and local governments were historically responsible for funding infrastructure projects that benefit their residents, and said they were already “inundated with money” from previous coronavirus relief legislation.

“More unnecessary congressional spending is not what our economy needs,” Toomey said. “This has already contributed to the damaging inflation that Americans are currently experiencing.”

In a Tuesday call with reporters, US Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who worked out a bipartisan infrastructure compromise with Democrats, said 75% of Biden’s plan programs would fund “things that have never been considered infrastructure before, “such as providing money for skilled nursing facilities, daycares, schools and electric vehicle companies. The compromise he is crafting would fund roads, bridges, ports, broadband and transit without raising taxes, Portman said.

“I hope something will be done on a bipartisan basis,” Portman said.

Earlier this month, Horrigan joined a group of mayors across the country in a letter to House and Senate leaders who urged Congress to fill the “supply gap” in affordable housing by incorporating funds to build, preserve and renovate more than two million homes and commercial buildings, including:

  • $ 35 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership program
  • $ 45 billion in the Housing Trust Fund
  • New and expanded tax credits, including new tax credits through the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act and the extension of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by 50% over two years
  • At least $ 40 billion to improve the infrastructure of the public housing system
  • Significant expansion of housing choice vouchers to all eligible households
  • $ 2 billion in Community Funding for Global Development (CDBG) for climate resilience efforts and at least $ 27 billion for a clean energy and sustainability accelerator, intended to “mobilize private investment in energy resources distributed; renovations of residential, commercial and municipal buildings; and clean transport “

“In our communities, we see and hear every day from our constituents that housing is infrastructure,” their letter said. “Building and maintaining our country’s affordable housing stock will enhance productivity and economic growth, promote economic mobility, and provide greater household stability and well-being. “

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