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Fair Housing Advocates Celebrate Passage of AOC's Repeal of Faircloth Amendment

"The Faircloth Amendment is one of the most heartless pieces of legislation that has prevented any substantive action on housing for years."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) along with affordable housing advocates and climate change activists announce the introduction of public housing legislation as part of the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Thursday, November 14, 2019. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Fair housing advocates applauded Wednesday evening as the U.S. House pushed through the repeal of the Faircloth Amendment, a 22-year-old provision which blocks the construction of new public housing units.

The repeal of the amendment, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), was passed as part of the Democrats' Moving Forward Act, aimed at upgrading and decarbonizing the nation's infrastructure. 

The Faircloth Amendment was passed in 1998 as an amendment to the Housing Act of 1937. The provision banned the construction of new public housing units which would lead to a net increase in public housing from the 1999 level. Existing units would need to be disposed of or demolished before new construction could take place under the law. 

The amendment was "largely forgotten" by many after being signed into law by President Bill Clinton, according to Curbed, but has been a focus of housing advocates for years.

Journalist David Dayen expressed surprise on Tuesday that for more than two decades, "PAYGO for social housing" has existed in the United States. 

Fair housing advocates and other progressives applauded the House vote, with housing for all organization Open New York calling the amendment "an anti-housing catastrophe."

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has previously introduced legislation to repeal the Faircloth Amendment, and a repeal was included in Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.) Homes for All Act. That legislation called for 8.5 million new public housing units. 

Jeff Andrews wrote at Curbed earlier this year that because of the overall reduction in public housing stock across the U.S. since Faircloth was passed, public housing authorities in some cities could add to their stock without exceeding the 1999 cap. 

"But the Faircloth Amendment would clearly stand in the way of building [8.5] million new public housing units, as Omar's bill proposes, an almost tenfold increase in the number of public housing units," Andrews wrote. 

The Green New Deal for Public Housing, introduced last year by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with the aim of retrofitting public housing units, also called for the repeal of Faircloth. 

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