The Most Consequential Housing Law You’ve Never Heard Of

In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law one of the most consequential pieces of housing legislation, but unless you’re an urban planner or housing advocate you probably have never heard of the Section 9(g)(3) of the United States Housing Act of 1937, more commonly known as the “Faircloth Amendment.” Named for Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-NC) who inserted the amendment into the law, it was at the time an obscure section in a package of new rules that made accessing public housing more costly and difficult for individuals and communities across the country. The National Low Income Housing Coalition called the Faircloth Amendment, “the most counterproductive part of this troubling public housing law.” 

Simply put, the Faircloth Amendment effectively makes it illegal for the federal government to build or fund the development of more public housing. Because of this law, the number of public housing units cannot increase more than the number that existed on October 1, 1999. It’s an artificial barrier that prevents policymakers from using a major tool to address our nation’s growing housing crisis.

Since the Faircloth Amendment became law nearly 21 years ago, the U.S. population has grown by about 51 million and the inflation-adjusted median cost of buying a home in the U.S. has risen 36.83% from $198,612.11 to $271,768.42. This is all happening while there is a $70 billion backlog in funding for maintenance and repairs to existing public housing stock. With rising population and housing costs, and deteriorating public housing the need has never been greater for secure housing and smart policy solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this crisis even more obvious and urgent.

This is an excerpt from my blog post on the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium’s Housing is Health blog. Click here to read the full “The Most Consequential Housing Law You’ve Never Heard Of” blog post.