New “Restoring Communities Left Behind Act” would revitalize distressed U.S. communities with $5 billion for local partnerships

On February 4, 2021 the Center for Community Progress and the Grounded Solutions Network expressed their support of new legislation that would invest $5 billion in flexible federal funding for distressed communities nationwide. The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Congresswomen Kaptur and Tlaib are championing critical change that will support some of our nation’s highest-need areas, both rural and metropolitan,” said Dr. Akilah Watkins, President and CEO of Community Progress. “The proposed Restoring Communities Left Behind Act is the type of flexible, impactful legislation that will help American communities respond to our diverse and growing revitalization needs.

The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act would authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish a $5 billion program, that would operate from fiscal years 2021 to 2031, to award competitive grants to eligible local partnerships for neighborhood revitalization activities.

The Act includes provisions for:

  • assistance to existing residents experiencing economic distress with homeowner rehabilitation assistance, weatherization, improved housing accessibility for seniors and people with disabilities, housing counseling, refinancing, property tax relief and so much more;
  • the purchase and redevelopment of vacant, abandoned, or distressed properties to create opportunities for affordable rental housing, homeownership, shared equity homeownership, or commercial properties;
  • funding to improve parks, sidewalks, street lighting, and other neighborhood improvements that impact the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods;
    establishment and operational support for community land trusts and land banks; and
  • additional revitalization support activities.

We are so grateful to Congresswomen Kaptur and Tlaib for providing strong leadership to improve the places that need it the most, while advancing racial and economic equity based on the priorities local communities determine to be appropriate. For instance, residents and local partners can establish and expand community land trusts and other shared equity housing programs to create permanently affordable rental or homeownership opportunities on land held in trust by the community,” said Tony Pickett, CEO of the Grounded Solutions Network.

“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,” he added.

The Act is also supported by a wide array of leaders, law makers, and advocates in housing and community development, including LISC, the National Community Stabilization Trust, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and the Detroit People’s Platform.

“Our neighborhoods have been challenged for decades with job loss, housing disinvestment, and racial inequity,” said David Mann, President & CEO of the Lucas County Land Bank. “The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act will change that by dedicating flexible federal funding to solutions designed by local communities to meet crucial local needs.”

The Act’s original House cosponsors include Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Mark Takano (D-CA), André Carson (D-IN), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Andy Levin (D-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Cori Bush (MO), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-GU), and Fred Upton (R-MI).

In the last several decades, especially since the 2008 housing and financial crisis, many communities, from the smallest towns to the largest cities, have struggled with urban decay as jobs have moved overseas and economic well-being has collapsed,” said Representative Kaptur.

Through it all, folks in these communities have tirelessly worked together to rebuild and breathe new life into our cities – Toledo and Detroit are perfect examples. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout have made that important work more difficult and more important than ever before,” she added.

More Support for Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Putting Vacant Properties Back to Productive Use

Housing justice is economic justice and racial justice,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Communities across the country are suffering from government disinvestment and systemic racism. The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act is a major step in reversing decades of discriminatory policy.

The introduction of the proposed Restoring Communities Left Behind Act follows efforts from both organizations to create more assistance for homeowners and communities fighting property vacancy through initiatives that recently include:

  • Community Land Trust Accelerator – A strategic partnership focused on delivering technical assistance and financial support to produce affordable housing and mixed-use assets;
  • The Vacant Property Leadership Institute – A joint effort between Community Progress and the National League of Cities that offers free education, networking, and technical assistance to localities and states fighting vacancy; and
  • Support for the National Land Bank Network Act and the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act Coalition; and
    COVID-19 Online Resource Centers from both Community Progress and Grounded Solutions.

So many communities have struggled for too long to recover from the Great Recession, broken markets, decades of disinvestment, and generations of racial inequity,” continued Watkins.

These same neighborhoods now face the compounding health and economic crises of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Restoring Communities Left Behind Act is a bold, powerful proposal to equip neighborhood residents and leaders around the country with desperately needed funding and tools to not only weather the current crises, but to build back better,” she concluded.

Since 2010, Community Progress and Grounded Solutions have, individually and in-partnership, served more than 1000 communities in 45 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in their fight to prevent vacancy and create more permanent affordable housing.

Photo of downtown Lancaster, Ohio by David Mark from Pixabay.

See full text of the legislation (PDF).

See Center for Community Progress website.

See Grounded Solutions Network website.

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