As the debate over federal housing policy heats up, Jared Brey provides a concise explanation of the Faircloth Amendment, a 1990s-era rule that has been a recent target of affordable housing advocates. Touted as the “first step to addressing the country’s housing affordability problem” by Ross Barkan in the New York Times, repealing the amendment would “remove a legal obstacle to a series of ambitious housing plans that progressives have rallied behind.”
Introduced as part of the 1998 Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act, the Faircloth Amendment amended the Housing Act of 1937 to maintain public housing units at 1999 levels, effectively preventing housing authorities from ever maintaining more public housing than they did then. The amendment was enacted amid a broader welfare reform movement “grounded in a belief that public assistance programs were detrimental to people’s ability to achieve economic independence.” In the 1990s, many lawmakers had a perception of public housing as “crime-infested, unhealthy places that kept people trapped in poverty.”
However, “Faircloth Limits” aren’t the biggest factor in limiting affordable housing. “Since the 1980s, the restriction of federal funding has had a much bigger impact on public housing than the Faircloth Amendment,” and many cities own fewer units than their Faircloth limits allow. A lack of federal funding is the most pressing obstacle facing affordable housing production, but with proposals like the Green New Deal for Public Housing on the table, which calls for $180 billion in spending, significant change in federal housing policy seems more possible.