Affordable Housing Update & Looking Ahead

Affordable Housing Update & Looking Ahead

After a slow start primarily due to the partial government shutdown, Congress is now moving forward with more deliberation. Committees are conducting hearings and Members of Congress are prioritizing their legislative agendas. In that regard, there are a number of developments in the affordable housing space that we want to share with you.

We are fortunate to have Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) continuing her leadership on the Senate side joined by Representative Suzan DelBene (D-WA) on the House side who will take over the lead sponsor role on our LIHTC legislation. With the change in House control, longtime LIHTC champions Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) have moved into powerful positions as Speaker of the House and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee respectively. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), another key advocate for affordable housing, remains in his post as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Currently, Senator Cantwell and Representative DelBene are reviewing the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act introduced in the last Congress for possible changes and additions. We and our colleagues on the ACTION Steering Committee are engaged in this process with Senator Cantwell and Representative DelBene. Timing on reintroduction is unclear, but our champions are working hard to move the process along as quickly as possible.

While fine tuning their bills, our champions also are looking for opportunities to move the legislation, including in any bills that address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. In that regard, we are pleased that Chairman Neal has made the affordable housing credit part of the infrastructure conversation. At a March 6th hearing on the need for action on an infrastructure package, Chairman Neal specifically mentioned in his opening remarks the positive impact the LIHTC has on communities. The Housing Advisory Group joined many of our industry partners on an ACTION statement submitted for the hearing record urging that any infrastructure package include a housing title encompassing the provisions in the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act.

We also were pleased that support for affordable housing surfaced in a number of other congressional hearings this month. At a March 14th House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the Administration’s FY 2020 budget, Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA) asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about proposals to establish a permanent minimum 4 percent credit rate and to lift the cap on private activity bonds. He also asked if there is a direct benefit to affordable housing from opportunity zones. Later that day, Secretary Mnuchin appeared before the Senate Finance Committee where Senator Cantwell expressed her support for continued investment in the LIHTC. At that same hearing, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) questioned why the Internal Revenue Service had changed its interpretation with respect to general public use and bonds used for veterans affordable housing. She noted that the reinterpretation had halted projects in her state. Secretary Mnuchin commented that the Administration is working with the Finance Committee to ensure that veterans housing will not be impacted.

On March 7th, the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on affordable housing production from the viewpoint of stakeholders. There was ample discussion regarding the importance of the LIHTC and HUD programs, and the need for more resources. In response to a question from Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) regarding federal incentives for addressing the shortage of affordable housing, National Housing Trust Federal Policy Director Ellen Lurie Hoffman noted the need for additional resources and stated that the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act provides a 50 percent increase in allocation. Panelists expressed concern about the release of the President’s budget and the impact of cuts on critical HUD programs.

As anticipated, the Administration’s FY 2020 budget, unveiled on March 11th, sharply cuts HUD programs. The budget provides a $9.7 billion cut to HUD programs, a 16.4 percent decrease from FY 2019 levels. The President’s budget eliminates a number of programs, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, Choice Neighborhoods grants, the Public Housing Capital Fund, the National Housing Trust Fund, and the Capital Magnet Fund. The Administration’s budget is only a request to Congress and has no binding authority on Congress. The real work will take place during the appropriations process, and there are strong advocates for affordable housing on the subcommittees tasked with funding HUD programs.

As always, we need your help in educating the many new Members of Congress and staff who may not be familiar with the housing credit and the critical need for additional resources. We know many of you will be in D.C. over the next few months visiting congressional offices in support of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act. Let us know if we can be of help as you make your rounds. And, if you have an opportunity to see your elected officials when they are back home, please encourage them to visit a property. It will make a difference. Thanks for all you do.

Finally, we look forward to seeing you at our annual Housing Advisory Group Congressional Forum in Washington DC on Tuesday, June 4th. Details are forthcoming but this is one of those critical years when we have the opportunity to secure the 4% LIHTC fixed rate, an increase in the 9% LIHTC and other significant changes to the program. You being there to advocate on the Hill with Members of Congress will be critical to our success in this endeavor.

Thank you.

Bob Moss & David Gasson

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *