American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – What We Actually Got

After all the speculation and promise that this bill would jump start the economy, here is a breakdown of what’s included in the bill.

H.R. 1, the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,” passed the House on February 13, 2009, by a vote of 246 – 184. Later that day, the Senate also passed the bill by a vote of 60 – 38. The President signed the bill on February 17, 2009. The bill is a $780 billion package, with roughly 35% of the package devoted to tax cuts (mostly for 2009) and the rest to spending intended to occur in 2009 and 2010.

Track the effectiveness and impact of this bill here.


The bill includes the following provisions:

Homebuyer Tax Credit

The bill provides for a $8,000 tax credit that would be available to first-time home buyers for the purchase of a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009.  The credit does not require repayment.  Most of the mechanics of the credit will be the same as under the 2008 rules:  the credit will be claimed on a tax return to reduce the purchaser’s income tax liability.  If any credit amount remains unused, then the unused amount will be refunded as a check to the purchaser.

Chart Highlighting the Major Modifications to the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

Frequently Asked Questions

FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loan Limits

The bill reinstates last year’s 2008 loan limits for FHA, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae loans.  These limits were equal to the greater of 125% of the 2008 local area median home price or $271,050 for FHA and $417,000 for Fannie and Freddie, with an overall maximum cap of  $729,750.  For the few areas where the 2009 limits were higher, the higher limits will apply.  In addition, the bill includes language providing the HUD Secretary with the discretion, if warranted, to increase the loan limit for any “sub-area”, i.e.an area smaller than a county. The Secretary’s discretion is again limited by the $729,750 cap. These 2009 limits will expire December 31, 2009.

The inclusion of these loan limit provisions in the final bill is a victory for homeowners, buyers and Realtors.  While these new limits were included in version of the original stimulus bill approved by the House, the bill first approved by the Senate did not.  NAR’s Call for Action to both the House and the Senate prior to the final vote advocated strongly for the provisions which were then included in the final bill approved by both Chambers.

Neighborhood Stabilization

Division A, Title XII of the bill provides $2,000,000,000 in additional funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).  The NSP was created by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2009 (Public Law 110–289) to provide grants through the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) to states and localities to address the problems that can be created when whole neighborhoods are decimated by foreclosures. The funds can be used to purchase, manage, repair and resell foreclosed and abandoned properties. In addition, the funds can also be used by states and localities to establish financing methods for the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed properties.  After purchase the homes must be used to assist individuals and families with incomes at or below 120% of area median income. Twenty-five percent of funds must be used for households with incomes at or below 50% of area median income.  By leveraging their expertise in partnership with others from both the public and private sector, Realtors® in many communities have been making important contributions to their local communities’ neighborhood stabilization programs.

Commercial Real Estate

-Commercial real estate is impacted primarily through those provisions of the bill focused on green building and energy efficiency as well as business tax incentives. H.R. 1 provides significant funds for state energy programs, which could be used to support commerical property owners’ investment in energy efficiency upgrades while commercial property owners seeking to invest in alternative energy systems for onsite power generation would benefit from the Department of Energy Renewable Energy Loan Guarantees Program.  Of particular benefit to small businesses would be certain provisions of the bill that provide tax relief in the area of bonus depreciation and capital expenditures, as well as the 5-Year carryback of net operating losses for small businesses.

Rural Housing Service

The bill provides an additional $500 million to existing USDA Rural Housing programs.  The RHS provides both a guaranteed loan program and a direct housing loan program for those meeting the program’s eligibility criteria. The direct loan program will receive $270 million while $230 million will be allocated for unsubsidized guaranteed loans. It has been reported that this level of funding would provide for an additional 192,000 homeowners.

Low Income Housing Grants

Allow states to trade in a portion of their 2009 low-income housing tax credits for Treasury grants to finance the construction or acquisition and rehabilitation of low-income housing, including those with or without tax credit allocations.

Tax-Exempt Housing Bonds

Tax-exempt interest earned on specified state and local bonds issued during 2009 and 2010 will not be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).  In addition, financial institutions will have greater capacity to purchase tax-exempt state and local bonds.

Energy Efficient Housing Tax Credits & Grants

To promote green jobs and energy independence, ARRA invests significantly in efforts to make homes and buildings more energy efficient.  The bill provides state and local governments with $6 billion in energy efficiency and conservation grants for energy audits, retrofits and financial incentives.  Through 2010, homeowners will be able to claim a 30% tax credit (up from 10%) for purchases of new furnaces, windows and insulation.  Another $5 billion will be available to modernize the nation’s electricity grid and install smart meters on homes that help to save consumers money.  There is also $5 billion for weatherization assistance for low income households and $2 billion for federally assisted housing efficiency efforts.

Transportation Investments

The bill provides $46.7 billion to states and localities for capital investment for surface transportation projects including highways, bridges, transit, and rail projects.  These investments will tend to moderate traffic congestion and support a variety of transportation alternatives which will improve the quality of life of American communities and bolster the value of real estate.

Broadband Deployment

The bill creates $7.2 billion in grants to promote broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas and for mapping the availability of broadband service in the U.S. Any entity is eligible to apply for a grant including municipalities, public/private partnerships and private companies as long as they comply with the grant conditions. The grants are subject to “network neutrality” requirements to ensure that broadband networks be free of restrictions on content, sites, or platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed.

The bill also charges the FCC is with developing a national broadband plan that shall seek to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal.   A 2006 Commerce Department report determined that property values are 6% higher in communities where broadband is available.

See how each member of the the U.S. House of Representatives voted here.

See how each member of the U.S. Senate voted here.

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