Kennedy Offers $500M Housing Bill
Measure Introduced Yesterday Would Help Non-Profit Developers
Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) today introduced a $500 million bill in Congress that would provide matching grants to help non-profit groups build affordable housing.
Kennedy presented the bill Monday afternoon, appearing at a press conference with Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. Criticizing Reagan Administration cuts in federal housing programs, he said the bill would help rejuvenate them.
"Why doesn't Ronald Reagan have to tell where he'll get Central America funding if we have to say where the housing money will come from?" Kennedy asked.
The bill, dubbed the National Community Housing Partnership Act, would provide $3 for every dollar raised by an eligible community group. According to a Kennedy statement released Monday, the money would help build 25,000 to 50,000 units of affordable housing. At least 60 percent would go to cities and urban counties.
"This legislation provides for a partnership between the federal government and neighborhood groups all across America," Kennedy said in a prepared statement.
Flynn called on "the mayors of this country" to cooperate in solving the housing problem. Kennedy said Mayor Flynn had done a "tremendous job in seeking out real solutions" to these problems.
Strong Chance of Passage
In an interview after the press conference, Kennedy said he expects the bill to fare well in Congress. "However, we all know that it is always tough to get new money out of Washington, D.C.," he added.
"The [housing] policies we have in place just simply do not work," Kennedy said.
Patricia J. Libby, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporation (CDC), said the CDC is the largest producer of affordable housing in Massachusetts and would probably receive the largest portion of this state's grant money from the bill.
"We really need this bill in Massachusetts because the huge growth in industry causes tremendous pressure on the housing market. Areas that once were 'undesirable' now cost a fortune to live in," said Libby.
Libby said that Kennedy's proposal may not win acceptance from Southern members of Congress because the bill would help mostly urban areas.
Walsh: "the right initiative"
Cambridge City Councillor William H. Walsh said Kennedy was "taking the right initiative with this bill."
"The two main problems [in providing low-income housing] are needing land to build on, which calls for zoning changes, and needing money to fund the projects. Anything that makes a start in this area is great," said Walsh.
"Cambridge has a number of non-profit development corporations that could benefit from additional affordable housing funds," said Assistant City Manager Michael H. Rosenberg.
Rosenberg added that Kennedy has "identified housing as an area where he wants to make a contribution [and he is] working hard to make an impact." During his 1986 campaign, Kennedy repeatedly promised to work for affordable housing through "public-private partnerships" like those that this bill would create.
Harvard Associate Vice President for State and Community Affairs Jacqueline A. O'Neill said yesterday that "everybody on the state level agrees" about the need for affordable housing.
"We have to renew the support on the federal level that has disappeared on account of Reagan's federalism. Can [the bill] get funded in this climate of budget cutting and looming deficit? I do not know, but it sounds like a wonderful idea," O'Neill said.