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Cortez Masto leading efforts to expand housing, fight discrimination

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto this week launched efforts to restore fair lending practices and affordable housing in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge detailed new assistance in the American Rescue Plan to help people experiencing homelessness, provide vouchers for the working poor and affordable housing across the nation as many families have grappled with job and financial loss.

“We know that affordable housing is a problem all across the country,” Fudge told a White House briefing.

She took a jab at Republicans in the House and Senate who voted against the $1.9 trillion package that President Joe Biden signed into law, providing federal funds for vaccines, direct payments to people, unemployment insurance, business loans and money for housing.

Fudge said affordable housing is an issue in Republican-represented districts and states, too. “So many of us just choose to ignore it,” she said.

Republicans, however, criticized the bill as too expensive, saying it would increase the national debate and was laden with provisions completely unrelated to the coronavirus. Less expensive GOP alternatives were unsuccessful in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Nevada was one of the state’s hardest hit by the pandemic because it relies on the hospitality and tourism industry. Closure of casinos, restaurants and entertainment venues left many without jobs and, in some cases, without homes.

Cortez Masto refiled legislation that would restore requirements on financial institutions dropped during the Trump administration that previously helped local governments and advocates identify discrimination in lending.

During a virtual media conference, Cortez Masto and Kate Zook, Silver State Fair Housing Council executive director, outlined some of the alleged housing discrimination they’ve seen exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic in Nevada.

Cortez Masto said “we must remember that housing discrimination, it takes many forms. And we’ve seen an increase of harassment complaints, which are often unreported and harder to detect and deter.”

Her legislation also would require additional money for affordable housing, similar to what is already being provided to the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the relief package passed by Congress. Fudge said about $40 billion is being made available and President Joe Biden is asking the department to address several issues immediately.

About $5 billion will be used to help people experiencing homelessness, and to get as many as 130,000 people off the streets and into shelter and rooms. Other funds will be used to expand vouchers and to help with rental assistance for families struggling regain a financial footing.

Fudge said her department also will be working with states and cities to expand new affordable housing.

Cortez Masto said the rescue plan would provide Nevada $208 million in emergency rental assistance, $50 million to help homeowners behind on their mortgages, $30 million for homelessness, and $45 million in Community Development Block Grants to help communities build affordable housing for low-income families.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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