On September 15, 2020, the Housing Advisory Group (HAG) co-hosted a virtual congressional affordable housing forum with the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition (AHTCC). Over 200 participants joined in for an enjoyable and informative session. We wanted to give you an overview of the event.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Following opening remarks by HAG Executive Director David Gasson and AHTCC Executive Director Emily Cadik, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the group. She noted that when her father was mayor of Baltimore, her mother, as “First Lady” made affordable housing her priority project. Speaker Pelosi also commented that in her early days in Congress, she was tapped to secure Member support for the LIHTC, and succeeded in gathering support by showing Members what it would mean to their own Districts. Speaker Pelosi stressed the importance for affordable housing advocates to talk directly to their own Members of Congress.
The Speaker noted that the affordable housing crisis existed before COVID-19 and commented on the increased challenges caused by the pandemic. She mentioned the importance of building and rehabilitating affordable housing and said the LIHTC is an important tool in that regard. She stated that the credit needs to be improved and noted that the 4 percent fix needs to be addressed. Speaker Pelosi also mentioned the robust housing provisions in the HEROES Act and in the infrastructure bill, both of which have passed the House.
With respect to the need for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running beyond September 30th, Speaker Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agree that the CR should be clean and that it should be done in a timely manner. But she noted that no agreement has been reached on the duration of the stop-gap funding. She said there is support from some to fund the government into February 2021, but noted that others support a measure that would expire in early December.
Katherine Monge, the Speaker’s top tax policy advisor, discussed opportunities for tax legislation that might include the 4 percent fix. She commented that an opportunity in December will depend on how productive the Lame Duck session might be. She noted that if the CR expires in December, the Lame Duck could provide more legislative opportunities, but also suggested that the President will have to decide how productive he wants the Lame Duck to be. She commented that the 4 percent fix enjoys bipartisan support, but said it will be important to ensure that either the House Republicans or the Administration are in a constructive mode with respect to including the fix in a larger tax package. Katherine said the Speaker wants to do another COVID-19 package before the election, and said that if there is a stimulus bill or a bill to extend expiring provisions, she expects the 4 percent fix will be in the mix. Katherine concluded by noting that the LIHTC enjoys strong support in the Democratic Caucus and commended the strong advocacy of Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA) with respect to the LIHTC provisions that were included in the House infrastructure bill.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal
Chairman Neal (D-MA) thanked the industry for its advocacy for the LIHTC, and reminded the group that it was nearly eliminated in the 2017 Republican tax reform plan. He stated that he thought there would be opportunities going forward to expand the credit, and said this would be a priority for the Ways and Means Committee. He stated there is good bipartisan support for the credit and thought it would be in good shape in the House
Chairman Neal speculated that Democrats will pick up seats in the House, noted that the Senate is up for grabs, and said at the moment it looks like Vice President Joe Biden will win. Rep. Neal noted that he has had a series of conversations with the Biden staff about housing issues and expects that housing matters will be a priority for them.
Chairman Neal stated that the CARES Act saved the American economy, and noted that it was intended to buy time to try to defeat the virus. He said another round of assistance is needed but questioned what can be done in the next 3-4 weeks. As part of another COVID-19 bill, Chairman Neal said Congress needs to do something to help people pay their rent or their mortgages because failure to do so will have a negative ripple effect; noting, for example, that credit unions and community banks will be hurt. With respect to the cost of the needed assistance, Chairman Neal stated that the federal government is the only entity that can absorb the debt and noted that states cannot. With regard to negotiations on another COVID-19 bill, Chairman Neal said the Democrats brought down the cost of their proposal by adjusting the timeline on HEROES Act provisions without eliminating any of its components.
In response to a question regarding the timeline in 2021 for focusing on infrastructure legislation (that would include housing), Rep. Neal said he and other key committee chairs are discussing that with Speaker Pelosi. He expressed disappointment that President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin indicated that infrastructure was a priority yet the Administration has not followed through. Chairman Neal said that he has talked extensively to Vice President Biden about infrastructure and said the Vice President is more than optimistic about an infrastructure bill and said it will be a priority. Rep. Neal said if Vice President Biden wins, there likely will be congressional conversations regarding an infrastructure bill even before the inauguration. With respect to the cost of an infrastructure package, Rep. Neal said he is not put off by the prospects of more debt and stated that debt as it relates to infrastructure is a long-term investment.
Senator Todd Young
Senator Todd Young (R-IN) noted that the affordable housing community has been indispensable in educating him on an issue about which he cares deeply. He said in the various roundtables he conducted in his District after his election, he constantly heard about the housing affordability crisis. He said the issue grabbed his attention.
Senator Young noted that to tackle the broader housing crisis will require bold and innovative solutions, but said it also will require support for existing programs and policies that have demonstrated their value to taxpayers and to recipients of those programs. He said the LIHTC program qualifies as one such program. Senator Young said that at this time of incredible need special attention should be given to housing assistance for those who need it the most. He said this is a great time to have a conversation to focus on the LIHTC program. Senator Young said we need to continue to find ways to fine tune this valuable program and to strengthen and expand the credit. To further that objective, he noted his work with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act. He stated that if enacted, the bill will create 1.9 million more affordable housing units across the country, and said that it will help better serve a number of at-risk Americans. Senator Young said he is working hard to include the 4 percent fix in the next COVID-19 package, which he hopes will come sooner rather than later.
In response to a question, Senator Young commented that he believes Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) will be the next Finance Committee chairman. He said Senator Crapo has a real interest in housing policy, and noted that his service on the Banking Committee will give him the whole housing picture when he takes the Finance chair. Senator Young said that he could be a real asset on the credit. He said he has not heard what issues Senator Crapo might prioritize for the Committee, and also noted the same with respect to Senator Wyden should the Democrats take control.
Housing Advisory Group and Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition Panel
David Gasson, Bob Moss, and Barbara Pate, joined Emily Cadik and Melissa Francis to discuss the legislative landscape and opportunities for LIHTC expansion and improvements. They discussed the next COVID-19 package and a year-end bill that includes tax provisions as potential vehicles in 2020 for the 4 percent fix. The panel suggested opportunities in 2021 might include an infrastructure package or additional COVID-19 legislation.
They discussed the challenges for advocating in the current climate and the need for the industry to be nimble in adjusting its strategy where needed. Also discussed were potential changes or additions to the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act. The panel commented on potential new congressional champions to work with our current champions, and also speculated about the priorities for the Finance Committee under a new chairman — either Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) should the Democrats take the Senate or Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) if Republicans retain control. Finally, the panel discussed the outlook for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Community Reinvestment Act rule and how the rule might be impacted by the elections.
Charlie Cook, publisher of The Cook Political Report, closed the Forum with an in-depth analysis of the Presidential election that focused on the six key battleground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina). He noted that reliable national polls currently show Vice President Biden leading President Trump by 8 percentage points, and stated that based on what we know now, he believes (at this time) that there is a 20 percent chance that the President will win the Electoral College.
In handicapping the Senate, Charlie discussed the seats currently held by vulnerable Senators: Doug Jones (D-AL), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), David Perdue (R-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Joni Ernst (R-IA). He concluded that at this time it looks “a little better than 50-50 that Republicans lose their majority in the Senate.” Charlie predicted the Democrats would retain control of the House but commented that they might not pick up seats.
We want to thank our colleagues at the AHTCC for their partnership in presenting the Forum. We also want to recognize Allison Marino for all the work she put into the Forum. Finally, sincere thanks to all of our HAG members that participated. We are very excited about the potential for affordable housing pending the results of the November 3rd election and look forward to working with our advocates on the Hill and you to secure great successes for affordable housing.
If you attended or viewed the session, we’d like to hear your feedback. Click here to access a survey on the forum.