The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: Why it’s Critical for Washington and Why Now is the Time to Get Involved

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Guest Blogger: Emily Cadik, Senior Policy Analyst with Enterprise Community Partners

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) has created 53,000 affordable apartments and 61,500 jobs in Washington. Having financed over 2.5 million units over the past 26 years nationwide, it is the nation’s most successful affordable housing production tool. Without it, there would be virtually no new affordable housing.

The Housing Credit has helped finance properties like Seattle Housing Authority’s High Point HOPE VI Redevelopment. Located in the West Seattle neighborhood, this property replaced World War II-era housing with a mixed-income, sustainable community featuring a public library and health center.

Catholic Charities Housing Services of Yakima created the Reino del Cielo development in Royal City, Washington with $11.3 million in Housing Credit equity. This process replaced a deteriorated property with affordable homes for farm workers. The development also has a community center with social services including ESL classes and credit counseling. Reino del Cielo also connects residents with transportation to Yakima (the closest city at 80 miles away).

High Point HOPE VI Redevelopment


Reino del Cielo

Current Threats to the Housing Credit

Despite the success of the Housing Credit and the growing need for affordable housing (a 6.4 million-unit affordable supply gap), the program faces a major threat in 2013.

Both parties are have stated their determination to reform the tax code later this year. This will mean re-evaluating, reducing, and possibly eliminating the hundreds of tax credits and programs that currently exist in the Internal Revenue Code. Although the Housing Credit is a program that has a significant benefit for communities, this tax credit is still very much at risk in these negotiations.

In addition to this existential threat, the Housing Credit rate has also dropped to an all-time low, making it more difficult to finance Housing Credit deals. A 2008 bill temporarily set a floor for the rate, but the provision has effectively expired. Our priority during the lame duck session is to have this Housing Credit provision included in tax legislation – when Congress takes up six dozen expiring tax provisions, such as the middle class tax cuts and business-related provisions like the Research and Development tax credit.

How to Get Involved

Nonprofit organization Enterprise is one of the co-founders of the A Call to Invest in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION) Campaign, which boasts over 400 organizations, representing all corners of the affordable housing industry. We are going to need all of these allies and more to save the Housing Credit. Our 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.

That’s where you come in. Washington advocates are especially well-positioned to have a major impact on the fate of the Housing Credit, with access to several key members of Congress.

Sen. Maria Cantwell is the strongest champion of the Housing Credit in the Senate, having sponsored our legislation related to the Housing Credit floor (S. 1989). Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-8th) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA-7th) have also supported our legislation in the House (H.R. 3661), and both sit on the House Ways and Means Committee, which will shape tax reform next year. It’s imperative they repeatedly hear from constituents that their prior support is appreciated, and their future support is critical. Senator Patty Murray is the fourth-highest-ranking Democrat, and the only one of these influential Washington members that has not signed on as a co-sponsor of our legislation. It is crucial to gain her support.
Housing Credit advocate Senator Maria Cantwell

We encourage members of Housing Alliance to join us to save the Housing Credit. You can learn more about the ACTION campaign and become a supporter by visiting the campaign’s website at www.rentalhousingaction.org.

You can also get started in your community right now by:

  • Calling, writing to, or visiting your members of Congress in D.C. and at home.
  • Inviting members of Congress to an event at a Housing Credit property, such as a groundbreaking, ribbon cutting, or resident meeting.
  • Writing a letter to the editor or an op-ed.
  • Partnering with other ACTION Campaign supporters in your state to coordinate advocacy efforts.

The Housing Credit can survive tax reform – but only if we fight for it.

 

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