The path forward for the critical housing investments that Democrats sought to protect in the Build Back Better Act (BBB) ​​becomes murky, as uncertainty looms over the party’s chances of passing its partisan package despite the resistance of Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) .

Democrats grabbed headlines last year after unveiling proposals for historic $300 billion investments in affordable housing, seen by supporters as potentially transformative in tackling the housing crisis, including increasing the financing of housing assistance and the construction of social housing.

But as intraparty disagreements arose over the size of the plan, a core part of President Biden’s agenda, the price of housing investments began to fall sharply, as they did in other areas of the high-profile agenda. Funding earmarked for housing was cut nearly in half in the House-passed version of the climate and social spending plan last year.

And it remains to be seen whether the same reach of housing investments will be in any other effort the party makes this year during a package passed via budget reconciliation, a complicated procedure that will allow Democrats to circumvent a GOP filibuster in the Senate equally divided.

“I think the realistic path for a budget resolution is something narrower, and we need to start telling the truth about that,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who chairs the Senate subcommittee. credits on transport, housing and town planning. Development, told The Hill.

“I know nobody wants to be the bad guy and say, ‘It’s not happening,’ but if we’re going to do a reconciliation vehicle, it’ll be skinny,” he said bluntly.

Pressed to talk about possible talks on housing action through reconciliation, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, said he and others “continued to push” for these investments, but would not. ‘t divulge further where they stand in the current state of the game.

“We’re still trying to pass good legislation and that hasn’t changed, and we’ll see what happens,” Brown told The Hill on Wednesday, after expressing reluctance to confirm “negotiations or discussions” around of reconciliation.

“I’m not going to set it up for there to be negotiations and then we fail, and you can all write this – failed again. I’m not going to say that. So we keep going, we’re still trying to move the country forward,” Brown said.

The comments underscore the challenges Democrats face in setting another bar they may not meet, especially in an election year when the party’s weak control of the House and Senate is up for grabs in months.

While there have been rumblings among Democrats of another race for a reconciliation package that can win the support of leading moderate resisters like Manchin or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), those who are aware of the discussions have sought to clarify that they are just that: talking.

Coming out of a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) earlier this week, Manchin said any plan for a reconciliation package should be about “getting inflation under control, paying off this debt, to control what is happening”. ”

That includes, Manchin said, moves to change the tax code to ensure “everyone pays their fair share,” such as party-backed proposals to change the corporate rate through of a budget reconciliation. Manchin added that half of the revenue should be spent on deficit reduction, calling it “the only way to fight inflation.”

But when asked where previously proposed housing investments would fit into such a vehicle, Manchin told The Hill on Thursday that “there are no formal talks.”

Schumer also described his recent talks with Manchin as “preliminary” in remarks to reporters earlier this week, and said they were “going to keep talking”, while also focusing on high inflation rates for decades. decades.

“If you want to get rid of inflation, the only way to do that is to undo a lot of Trump’s tax cuts and raise rates,” Schumer said.

Advocates warn that the stakes are too high for Democrats not to take meaningful action on housing through reconciliation. Failure to do so would ignore a crisis they say is straining American families as the gap between housing costs and wages widens amid tight supply.

Sarah Saadian, senior vice president of public policy for the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), called the $150 billion in housing investments proposed in the $2.2 trillion version of BBB that was passed by the House last fall as a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

“I can’t imagine we’ll have another opportunity like this for a generation, and it will be hugely disappointing if Democrats don’t use it to address the biggest crisis facing ultra-low-income households. income, namely the extreme housing affordability crisis,” Saadian told The Hill.

According to a Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) report updated in January, more than 10 million people in the United States rely on federal housing assistance to cover housing costs. For every 10 low-income people, four “are homeless or paying more than half their income for rent,” the group said, while adding that “most do not receive federal housing assistance due to ‘limited funding’.

At the same time, the cost of buying a home has skyrocketed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and mortgage rates have also started to rise as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to make in the face of rising inflation.

“Families need Congress to act now to help them save on soaring housing costs,” Nikitra Bailey, senior vice president of public policy at the National Fair Housing Alliance, told The Hill. “Housing costs in our country are out of control at this point, and the average family is now spending 33.8% of their monthly budget or housing costs.”

Although Democrats fell short of party goals to pass proposed housing investments last year, lawmakers were able to secure more than $65.6 billion in budget authorization in appropriation bills. for fiscal year 2022 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), up $5.32 billion. of the previous year.

In a summary breaking down the funding, Democrats said more than half of that increase was “necessary to preserve housing assistance for the more than 5 million low-income households assisted by HUD to accommodate increases market rent”. Additionally, the legislation offered $280 million for 32,800 housing vouchers, $1.5 billion for the production of new affordable housing through the HOME program, $4.8 billion for community and economic development and more Billion for Aboriginal Community Housing Programs.

In an interview, Will Fischer, senior director of housing policy and research at CBPP, said he thought lawmakers could look more closely at the annual appropriations process as a course of action.” substantial” on housing in some areas this year, noting “bipartisan support in the past to expand the housing voucher program.

“I think it will be important that this be a priority for the owners. But I also think the economic package is another opportunity to do that as well,” he said, calling it “encouraging” that lawmakers included more than 30,000 additional supporting documents in their latest drafts. credit law.

Still, he said more action was needed.

“There is definitely a need for hundreds of thousands more vouchers. So what happened in the appropriations bills last year was a step forward, but it’s not enough,” Fischer added.

Rep. David Price (DN.C.), chair of the transportation, housing, and urban development appropriations subcommittee, also acknowledged the limitations of negotiators in securing needed housing funding in appropriations bills. annuals, which, he noted, “are almost by definition incremental”. improvements.

“Build Back Better is considering a one-time increase of $150 billion for housing. It would be a good thing to have,” he told The Hill this week. “And, if we don’t get it, it will probably influence how we get our supply bills through, but I’m not going to pretend that we could make up for that failure by just taking more ownership.”

Jordain Carney, Mike Lillis and Emily Brooks contributed.