Democracy in Design Act, climate, and equity top AIA 2022 policy priorities

U.S.Capitol

Congress is back in session, and multiple AIA policy priorities are on the agenda.

After a setback in December, negotiations continue on the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) (H.R. 5376). Billed as the most significant climate bill in U.S. history, the legislation includes critical support to incentivize the state/ local adoption of the latest building codes and stretch codes. It also provides robust investment in affordable housing, addressing both the supply and the energy efficiency of existing units. AIA members have sent more than 5,000 letters to Congress in support of architecture priorities in BBBA and an earlier infrastructure bill, the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” which was signed into law just before Thanksgiving.

As AIA continues its campaign in support of BBBA’s climate and equity investments, here’s a summary of other top policy priorities for 2022.

Democracy in Design Act

The Democracy in Design Act of 2021 (H.R. 5291) is bipartisan legislation that will ensure that communities across the country maintain a voice in the design of federal buildings in their areas.

Cosponsored by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the bill would codify the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) “1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” prohibiting the federal government from mandating any national design style.

AIA stands firmly against any federal mandate on architectural design style. There is no design style that is inherently more or less valuable than any other. This legislation is important because:

  • Officially maintaining a style-neutral position respects this country’s regional differences, as various communities may have different preferences, topographies, and design traditions.
  • It encourages American architectural innovation.
  • It supports a style-neutral approach that focuses on community-centered decision-making, demonstrated architectural skill, and public input for community-based federal building projects.

YIMBY Act/ Affordable Housing

The YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) Act (S. 1614/ H.R. 3198) recognizes that local land use policies have historically been used to deliberately limit the development of affordable housing, which has contributed to de facto housing segregation.

This bipartisan bill, led by Sens. Young (R-IN), Schatz (D-HI) and Warnock (D-GA), seeks to improve transparency and inclusive land use policies in communities across the country.

The YIMBY Act would:

  • Require all recipients of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to submit a report every five years on their land use policies.
  • Encourage CDBG grantees to implement 20 anti-discriminatory/ inclusive land use policies to facilitate new affordable housing construction.
  • Examples of inclusive land use policies include rezoning, encouraging mixed-use development, allowing duplexes and other multifamily housing, eliminating off-street parking requirements, and donations of vacant land.

School Safety

Since 2018, AIA has supported the establishment of a School Safety Clearinghouse, a federal resource for communities/ school officials on school safety issues established in the Trump administration and maintained in the Biden administration.

While AIA firmly maintains that no design can prevent all instances of school violence, best practices can mitigate the likelihood of violence and foster positive, prosocial learning environments.

AIA has successfully submitted multiple free resources on best practices/ issues in school design for inclusion in the Clearinghouse.

However, the Clearinghouse does not have congressionally appropriated funding, which means the resource could be sunset at any time.

AIA continues to advocate for dedicated funding for the Clearinghouse.

AIA also supports the expansion of existing federal grants that support school safety initiatives, like the STOP School Violence Grants, to cover whole-building redesigns so school districts can take a comprehensive view of their security needs.

Student Debt

Cost is one of the biggest barriers to entry for the architecture profession, and AIA advocates policies impacting student loan debt as part of the solution.

Since 2019, AIA has supported the bipartisan Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act (S. 1443/ H.R. 2917)  – which would prevent architecture graduates from being forced to choose between paying for their past or their future.

Due in part to high student loan repayments, many Americans are putting off saving for retirement. According to surveys by multiple retirement investment firms, roughly 60% of workers under age 25 do not save through their employer’s 401(k) plans at all.

The Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act of 2021 seeks to address this problem by allowing employers to count an employee’s student loan payments the same as they would count an employee’s retirement contribution for the purposes of an employer match. This means that even if the employee is not putting additional money into retirement, at least the employer match can start to accrue in their retirement savings.

Want to support the profession by speaking out about policy priorities? Build your leadership and advocacy skills during AIA’s annual Grassroots Leadership Conference in February. And we’re planning a hybrid lobby day – with both in-person and virtual options – for April.  Keep an eye on AIA’s Advocacy page for information and for Action Alert updates.

Image credits

U.S.Capitol

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