California legislator proposes $1.25B affordable housing bill

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United States Representative Adam Schiff is taking another shot at solving America’s housing crisis, this time through a proposal to convert government-owned buildings into affordable rental housing.

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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is taking another shot at solving America’s housing crisis, this time through a proposal to convert government-owned buildings into affordable rental housing.

The Affordable Housing Conversion Act would allocate $1.25 billion over five years toward identifying and converting unused and underutilized government buildings into rental units geared toward households whose income is 50 percent to 80 percent below the area median income outlined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Rep. Adam Schiff

“In a time where so many Americans are continually struggling to find safe, affordable housing, the Government Facilities to Affordable Housing Conversion Act represents a step forward in our efforts to address the housing crisis,” Schiff said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “By repurposing government buildings that have outlived their original use, we’re not only making efficient use of our resources but also increasing the supply of affordable housing.”

“We cannot stand by while the housing shortage displaces families and erodes the middle class,” he added. “It’s time to employ a broad range of strategies to ensure that every American has access to a safe, affordable place to call home.”

If passed, the bill would require HUD, the Administrator of General Services, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to produce annual reports analyzing the government’s real estate portfolio and what portion is eligible for conversion.

The bill also includes the creation of a $250 million annual grant fund from 2025 to 2030. The grant fund would enable states, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and local governments to purchase buildings eligible for conversion.

Buildings in the conversion program must maintain a specific income mix that reserves at least 60 percent of units for households making no more than 50 percent to 60 percent of the area median income. The remaining 40 percent of units could be occupied by households making no more than 80 percent of the area median income.

The total housing cost for households – including water, sewer, electricity, heating, cooling, trash and recycling, etc. — cannot exceed 30 percent of residents’ pre-determined monthly income limit, a percentage widely regarded as the affordability standard in public housing spaces.

Schiff and the bill co-sponsor, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., did not provide an estimate on how many buildings could qualify for the program. However, the Los Angeles Daily News, which was the first to report on the bill early Tuesday, said approximately 45,000 buildings meet the Act’s standards.

Kevin Sears | NAR President

National Association of Realtors President Kevin Sears said the Act is key to closing the nation’s growing inventory gap.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented housing inventory shortage. As a result, renters are faced with increased housing costs associated with an under-supply gap of 5.5 million units,” Sears said in a written statement. “The National Association of Realtors thanks Congressman Schiff for introducing the Government Facilities to Affordable Housing Conversion Act, which incentivizes the conversion of unused government buildings into affordable housing units.”

“It is critical for Congress to create new ways to incentivize affordable housing development, and NAR commends Congressman Schiff for his leadership on this issue,” he added.

This is the second housing conversion bill Schiff has proposed.

In 2023, he sponsored the Hotel to Housing Conversion Act of 2023 (H.R. 3117), a bill that would put $750 million toward converting hotels, motels and unused residential properties into transitional and permanent housing for homeless people and people at risk of homelessness.

The bill was introduced and sent to the House Committee on Financial Services in May and has since stalled.

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