Next steps on infrastructure: Senate debates Build Back Better Act
AIA’s advocacy campaign continues
With one infrastructure package now signed into law, focus turns to the Senate, where the second infrastructure bill – the Build Back Better Act – is expected to reach the floor soon, potentially next week.
Both measures include major policy wins to promote energy efficiency and resilience in the built environment. To date, AIA members have sent more than 5,000 letters to Congress urging support for architecture policy priorities in both bills. With the bipartisan “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” signed into law just before Thanksgiving, AIA’s advocacy campaign is now targeting passage of the Build Back Better Act.
This second legislative package, which passed the House in November, further advances sustainability and resilience initiatives while also promoting priorities like affordable housing and building code adoption at the state and local level.
“Throughout this legislative process, architects have delivered one simple message: Buildings are infrastructure,” said AIA EVP/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA. “Policymakers are listening. Getting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law represents a major milestone in recognizing the importance of the building sector. We’re on track to make meaningful advancements toward a more resilient and sustainable built environment, and the Build Back Better legislation is the next step. It's critical that Congress pass the Build Back Better Act to spur serious progress in building the healthy, resilient, equitable communities everyone deserves.”
AIA encourages architects to speak up through our latest Action Alert – and remind lawmakers that buildings are infrastructure.
As AIA continues to monitor action in the Senate, here’s a summary of both bills.
Build Back Better
Status: Passed the House of Representatives Nov. 17; expected to be considered this month in the Senate under the Budget Reconciliation process. It is expected that the Senate will make changes to the legislation, so the policy highlights below are subject to change. A more detailed overview of where AIA’s priorities stand at this important moment in the legislative process is available here.
Policy highlights (pending amendments):
Incentives for Building Code Adoption:
- Energy Codes: Provides $100 million in State Energy Program grants to incentivize state/local government adoption of the latest building energy codes. It also creates a separate $200 million incentive grant to support the adoption of zero energy and equivalent stretch codes.
- Hazard Resistant Codes: Provides $145.5million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to grant to state, local, and tribal governments to incentivize the adoption of the latest hazard-resistant codes and standards.
Energy Efficiency and Resilience:
- Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-house Rebates and Training Grants: Provides $5.89 billion to Department of Energy (DOE) to fund rebates for whole-house energy saving retrofits. Also provides $360 million in contractor training grants.
- High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Program: Funds $2.226 billion to DOE for rebates for electrification projects for single-family or multifamily home. Also appropriates $3.8 billion specifically for rebates carried out in tribal communities or for low- or moderate-income households.
- Improving Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, or Climate Resilience of Affordable Housing: Establishes a $2 billion grant program targeted to owners of federally assisted housing affordable housing to make energy efficiency upgrades.
- Rural Rental Housing: Provides $2 billion for new construction or to retrofit rural rental units to improve energy/ water efficiency or climate resilience. Also allows funding to be used to address safety hazards.
Capital Investment in Affordable Housing:
- Public Housing Investments: Provides $65 billion to address the capital needs backlog of public housing, which can include new construction, retrofit/ repair of existing public housing, and investment in the surrounding neighborhood.
- Affordable and Accessible Housing Production: $10 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program to construct or retrofit affordable housing for low-income individuals/ families.
- Housing Investment Fund: Establishes a new $250 million fund that will issue competitive grants to CDFIs and non-profit developers to construct more affordable housing.
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): Provides $3 billion for CDBG to fund affordable housing development and other infrastructure projects.
- Revitalization of Distressed Multifamily Properties: Provides $1.5 billion to maintain and improve safety conditions in properties receiving Section 8 project-based rental assistance, which is targeted to low-income families/ individuals,
- Community Restoration and Revitalization Fund: Establishes $3 billion for new competitive grants to support projects led by local nonprofits to revitalize communities that have been previously abandoned.
- Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities: Funds $500 million for HUD’s Section 811 program.
- Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly: Funds $500 million for the 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program.
Preventing Housing Discrimination:
- Fair Housing Initiatives Program: Provides $700 million to support local enforcement of fair housing laws.
Tax Incentives: The bill makes revisions to multiple AIA tax priorities. Check out the full memo for a detailed summary of the changes to:
- Energy Efficient Homes Credit (45L)
- Wildfire Mitigation Tax Credit
- Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction (179D)
- Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit (25C)
- Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Status: Signed into law Nov. 15. Regardless of what happens with the Build Back Better Act, these important investments will be administered to communities across the country.
- Provides $3.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program, which increases energy efficiency and reduces costs for low-income households.
- Authorizes $500 million in competitive grants to support energy-efficient and renewable energy in schools.
- Allocates $1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
- Allocates $500 million for grants established from the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation Act (STORM Act), which mitigates hazards to reduce risks from disasters.
- Provides $250 million in funding to establish the Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund Capitalization Grant Program, which states could use to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings.
- Establishes a $225 million competitive grant program within the DOE's Building Technologies Office to support cost-effective building code implementation.
- Establishes a $40 million grant program to train individuals to conduct energy audits and surveys of commercial and residential buildings.
- Develops building, training, and assessment centers through institutions of higher education and Tribal colleges to train architects, engineers, and other professionals about energy-efficient design and technologies, along with fostering additional research.
- Allows the Metropolitan Transportation Planning authorities to use federal funding to promote more walkable and multi-modal communities.
Following AIA’s successful efforts to include architecture policy priorities in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, our campaign continues. As Congress considers a second landmark infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better Act, click here to email your members of Congress today to remind them: Buildings are infrastructure.