As the country continues to grapple with an affordable housing and homelessness crisis, a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. Senators and Representatives today introduced legislation to increase investment in affordable housing and provide more resources and stronger protections for at-risk groups.
The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2019 was introduced by U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), and Don Beyer (D-Va.), and U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
“The Low Income Housing Tax Credit has proven to be a critical tool for spurring investment in affordable rental housing and providing stability for low-income Americans, including veterans, seniors, and those with special needs,” Congresswoman Jackie Walorski said. “By expanding and streamlining the affordable housing credit, this bipartisan bill will make an already successful program even more effective for communities across the country. I’m grateful to work across the aisle to modernize this important program so workers and families have a better opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
“As I travel around Indiana, one thing is clear: We need affordable housing now more than ever. If we strengthen the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, we can improve life outcomes for Hoosiers from Gary to Jeffersonville and everyone in between, and that’s exactly what the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act does,” said Senator Todd Young. “Our bipartisan legislation would leverage the private sector to increase the stock of affordable housing for families in urban and rural communities and tackle the housing affordability crisis head on.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Spokane or Walla Walla, whether you’re in Yakima or Vancouver, we have a housing crisis in the state of Washington,” said Senator Cantwell. “We know that this challenge of moving forward on affordable housing is something that is a bipartisan issue. The tax credit has had bipartisan support for many years in the United States Congress. We just need to put the pedal to the metal and provide more of the tax credit so we can get more affordable housing built in the United States of America.”
“Since 1986, housing credits have financed over three million affordable rental-housing units for roughly 7.4 million hardworking families, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. But in many parts of Washington state and across the country, people are struggling to put a roof over their heads,” said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. “The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act will help lift families out of dire situations and give them a chance to enter the middle class and not look back. I’m honored to team up with Senator Cantwell on this legislation and will work hard to get this bill passed so we can ensure every American has a safe, affordable place to call home.”
“The Dallas-Fort Worth region saw the biggest population growth in Texas last year, with developers building non-stop to keep up with demand,” said Congressman Kenny Marchant. “Tax credits are a vital tool in ensuring that affordable housing is part of their building plans, which is why I am proud to cosponsor this legislation to expand and improve the credits. Doing so will make it possible for even more families to call areas like ours ‘home.’”
“Housing is a right, and the lack of affordable housing is at crisis levels in communities all over America. Working families are struggling to pay their rent, being forced to leave their communities and falling into homelessness. By dramatically increasing the availability of affordable housing for low-income families, and focusing investment on populations more likely to struggle with housing like domestic violence survivors, students and veterans, our bill would make a significant down payment in addressing the housing crisis,” said Senator Ron Wyden.
“My community, like many others around the country, is facing a crisis in affordable housing. That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill which will expand and update the most important and effective tool for financing affordable housing. Passing this legislation would be an important step forward in addressing our massive housing needs,” said Congressman Don Beyer.
“The low-income housing tax credit is one of the best tools we have to add more affordable housing to our nation’s supply,” said Senator Isakson, who worked 40-plus years in the real estate industry. “The low-income housing tax credit has done remarkable things for expanding the availability of quality housing and attracting private capital to underserved markets. We’ve made a lot of progress in providing affordable housing for the American people, but there is more to be done, and that’s why I’m proud to support the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act to strengthen this important tax incentive.”
From 2000 to 2017, the total number of Americans facing extreme housing unaffordability ballooned from 7 million to 10.7 million – an increase of more than 50 percent. In addition, there is a nationwide shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental homes, an increase from the 4.6 million gap in 2000.
The legislation introduced today would expand and strengthen the Affordable Housing Tax Credit (also known as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit) to produce more units of affordable housing to close this gap and better serve a number of at-risk and underserved communities.
Across the United States, the expanded Affordable Housing Tax Credit would produce roughly 1.9 million new affordable housing units over the next decade, an increase of over 550,000 more units than would be built without the legislation. The bill increases the total number of affordable housing units built by:
- Increasing the amount of credits allocated to each state by 50% over current levels, resulting in the production of more than 384,000 more affordable homes in the next 10 years than would otherwise be created.
- Stabilizing the value of the 4% Affordable Housing Tax Credit – which is used for new construction that uses additional subsidies or the acquisition cost of existing buildings. This will create more certainty for ongoing and new projects and increase affordable housing production by more than 66,000 units.
- Expanding and reforming “recycling” of multifamily housing bonds, allowing states to maximize the available resources of private activity bonds by recycling multifamily bonds for affordable housing, resulting in 100,000 additional affordable housing units.
In addition to expanding the number of affordable homes built in the United States, the legislation makes a number of key reforms to strengthen the Affordable Housing Tax Credit. These reforms will:
- Create veteran-specific housing options. The legislation stipulates that the Affordable Housing Tax Credit can be used to support housing for veterans.
- Better target extremely low-income populations. The legislations increases, by 50%, the amount of credits available to developments serving extremely low-income populations or those with special needs, such as formerly homeless veterans.
- Boost affordable housing in Indian Country. The legislation classifies projects in Indian Country as Difficult to Develop Area, increasing the amount of credits available to build affordable housing in these areas. The legislation also requires states to consider the needs of their Native American communities by establishing new selection criteria for projects.
- Boost affordable housing to rural communities. The legislation gives states the ability to increase the amount of credits available to projects in rural areas.
- Protect victims of domestic violence and stalking. The legislation will bring all properties built using the Affordable Housing Tax Credit in line with Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) standards to better protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
- Opens affordable housing properties to more low-income students. The legislation simplifies current rules to ensure non-traditional students, such as single parents, veterans, formerly homeless youth, and domestic violence survivors, have access to affordable housing properties. Previously the rule was overly complex and differed from other HUD-financed housing rules.
Since its creation 30 years ago, the Affordable Housing Tax Credit has built or rehabilitated more than 3.2 million affordable housing units, leveraging more than $190 billion in private investment to do so. During that time, the credit has been responsible for nearly 90 percent of all federally-funded affordable housing. Between 1986-2013, more than 13.3 million people lived in homes financed by the Affordable Housing Tax Credit.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.