Federal Legislative Advocacy
Our current federal legislative priority issues are below. In choosing our national policy priorities, we consider what policies will have the greatest impact in Washington and where our advocacy will have the most impact. We also look to our national partners, including the D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), of which we are a member.
Go here to learn about the NLIHC's ongoing national policy issues.
Watch this page for regular updates. For more information, contact Director of Policy and Advocacy Michele Thomas at michele(at)wliha(.)org.
2015 Federal Legislative Priority Issues
These are in no particular order.
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Revenue Not Sequestration – America Deserves a Fair and Equitable Budget
We feel it important to counter the hysteria and sense of urgency pushed by the media and politicians regarding sequestration. Washington Senator Patty Murray summed it up very well:
"I don’t want us to go over the fiscal cliff, slope, or mountain or whatever. That provides a lot of uncertainty for the country. But taking an even worse deal simply for the sake of getting a deal would be deeply irresponsible, and it would hurt families far more than sequestration in the long run."
We oppose the sequestration of federal funds for homelessness, and want to see sequestration replaced. The ultimate priority isn’t that we do so before the March deadline. Rather, it’s most important that we push for the very best plan possible, a plan that doesn’t balance the budget on the backs of those who have the least in our communities. We ask Congress to adopt an approach to deficit reduction that brings in new revenue instead of relying on further cuts to programs that support affordable housing, community development, and ending homelessness.
From the Housing Alliance blog: The Fiscal Cliff is Dead. Long Live the Fiscal Cliff!
Sign the Housing Alliance petition against sequestration and for more revenue options
Have your organization pass the Sequestration Board Resolution
Learn at Lunch: Sequestration, Fiscal Cliff, Grand Bargain - What Does It All Mean for Affordable Housing?
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Policy Analyst Douglas Rice post from his off the charts blog: For Housing Assistance Recipients, Unbalanced Budget Deal Would Be Worse Than No Deal at All
All Americans should pay their fair share, especially millionaires. Pass a balanced budget of revenues and cuts to avoid sequestration.
Stimulate the Economy and House the Most Vulnerable - Invest in the National Housing Trust Fund
The National Housing Trust Fund was established as a provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush. This trust is intended to fund the production, preservation, rehabilitation, or operation of rental housing. A small amount of trust fund dollars can be used for certain home ownership activities for first-time homebuyers: production, preservation, and rehabilitation of homes; down payment assistance; closing cost assistance; and assistance for interest rate buy-downs.
State housing trust funds provide a useful model for the benefits of a National Housing Trust Fund. For instance, Washington State’s Housing Trust Fund dollars have helped create quality, affordable homes that allow people to improve their lives, while reducing or eliminating their need for social services. This vital program has also brought in more than $3 billion into the state from private and public sector support to build or preserve more than 36,000 homes. Thus, investments in the Housing Trust Fund have helped holistically energize Washington's local economies — creating much-needed construction jobs and healthier, more vibrant, and affordable communities across the state.
Unfortunately, although the fund is established and although funding for the Trust Fund has been included in every one of President Obama’s proposed budgets, the National Housing Trust Fund continues to remain unfunded and inactive. When it does secure funding, all states around the country could experience the same diverse benefits of a housing trust fund that we here in Washington State have experienced for the past few years. Washington State could then be able to take advantage of both housing trust funds to work on meeting the great need for affordable housing in our state. While many potential sources for the National Housing Trust Fund exist, currently we believe the best option for that funding is through reform of the Mortgage Interest Deduction, as outlined below.
The New York Times Opinion Page: Fight for the Housing Trust Fund
Create a National Housing Trust Fund to stimulate local economies and bolster strong communities.
Create a Fairer Housing Tax System While Funding the National Housing Trust Fund - Reform the Mortgage Interest Deduction
The Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) in its current form is broken and needs fixing. The deduction benefits the richest Americans with the most expensive homes far more than it does middle-income families. This is because many of these families can’t even use the credit at all because they don’t itemize their tax deductions. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 76 percent of the total benefit goes to the richest fifth of the population. Thus, wealthy Americans take advantage of the deduction to help buy million-dollar homes, while relatively few federal housing dollars exist for extremely low-income families.
We are calling for Congress to redirect the benefits currently provided to millionaire homeowners to instead support housing for struggling and moderate-income families. The National Low Income Housing Alliance suggests reforming the deduction by converting it to a credit, capping eligible mortgages at $500,000, and using the proceeds to finance the National Housing Trust Fund (see above for more information about this fund). These changes would mean that all homeowners with mortgages would get a tax break, not just those who have enough income to file itemized tax returns on more than one house.
Not only would more Americans get access to the credit, but also this proposal would save the federal government billions of dollars each year. These savings could then be used to capitalize the National Housing Trust Fund, which has long been a goal of the Housing Alliance. The National Housing Trust Fund would then create jobs while building and rehabilitating housing for people with lower incomes, a win-win-win situation.
Currently, the Mortgage Interest Deduction favors the nation’s wealthiest. Reform the deduction so the middle class truly benefits.
Utilize Financial Innovation to Fight Homelessness – Preserve the Low Income Housing Tax Credit
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is an innovative financial tool used by governments and nonprofits to create affordable homes all over the U.S. It has created over 53,000 affordable apartments and 61,500 jobs here in Washington. Having financed over 2.5 million homes over the past 26 years nationwide – 90 percent of all of the affordable housing built – it is the nation’s most successful affordable housing production tool. Without it, there would be virtually no new affordable housing. In addition, the construction of Housing Credit-funded homes have boosted local economies by creating much needed construction jobs and adding affordable homes to neighborhoods that need them.
Despite the success of the Housing Credit and the growing need for affordable housing, the program faces a major threat in 2013. Both sides of the aisle are determined to take up tax reform in 2013 and to lower corporate rates. Thus, all tax expenditures will be at risk for reduction or elimination, the Housing Credit among them. That’s why the Housing Alliance has joined the national campaign A Call to Invest in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), which boasts over 400 organizations. The strategy includes a three-part approach of legislative advocacy, coalition building, and a targeted media campaign to persuade key members of Congress to stand up for the Housing Credit even while other tax credits are being cut.
The Housing Alliance also supports efforts to improve the credit, such as H.R. 3661 and Senator Maria Cantwell’s S. 1981 which would make permanent floors on the 4% and 9% variable credits. We also support Representative Jim McDermott’s H.R. 3076 which would fix an issue where people are forced to choose between housing and school.
Cartoon explaining how the Housing Credit works
Enterprise Community Partners Housing Credit Information Page
Department of Housing and Urban Development Housing Credit Basics Page
Washington State Housing Finance Commission Housing Credit Page
Maintain the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, an effective financial tool that helps both businesses and the homeless.