Senate Finance Committee Hearing on the Role of Tax Incentives in Affordable Housing
On Wednesday this week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the critical role that tax incentives play in the development of affordable housing. Specifically, the hearing highlighted how the low supply of affordable homes, inflation, and sky rocketing rents are all contributors to the affordable housing crisis. Members of Congress and witnesses discussed bipartisan legislative solutions, with resounding support expressed for the Housing Credit.
Witnesses at the hearing included two organizational members of the ACTION Campaign Steering Committee: Buzz Roberts, President & CEO of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, and Jerry Konter, Chairman of the Board of the National Association of Homebuilders. Andrea Bell, Executive Director of Oregon Housing & Community Services, a member of ACTION co-chair NCSHA also provided testimony, in addition to Dana Wade, Chief Production Officer of Real Estate Finance for Walker & Dunlop, MD, and Lee E. Ohanian, Ph.D., Hoover Institute Senior Fellow and Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of California.
During his opening statement and throughout the course of the hearing, Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) highlighted the importance of the AHCIA, also drawing attention to his bill, The Decent, Affordable, Safe Housing (DASH) Act, comprehensive housing legislation that includes a number of Housing Credit provisions. Specifically, the DASH Act includes the AHCIA’s three major unit financing provisions: the cap increase for the 9 percent Housing Credit; lowering of the bond financing threshold from 50 percent to 25 percent; and additional basis boosts for rural, Native American, and extremely low-income communities. The bill also includes changes to Qualified Contracts and Right of First Refusal, as well additional provisions to streamline the program. Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) stated that the AHCIA “would expand and strengthen” the Housing Credit and described the importance of the credit in Idaho.
Notably, during the question portion of the hearing, Senator Todd Young (R-IN) asked witnesses if they supported the enactment of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), legislation that he and fellow committee member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced in April 2021. All five witnesses raised their hands in favor of the bill. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Mark Warner (D-VA) also expressed support for the Housing Credit, with Sen. Cantwell closing out the hearing with a final call for enactment of AHCIA as one of the only solutions to address the supply issue for affordable rental housing in her state of Washington, and across the country. Several committee members also called for enactment of the LIFELINE Act to allow the use of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for long-term investments with the Housing Credit.
House Ways & Means Committee Hearing on the American Housing Crisis
On July 13, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing called, “Nowhere to Live: Profits, Disinvestment, and the American Housing Crisis.” Like the Senate Finance Committee hearing, the Ways and Means Committee hearing focused on skyrocketing housing costs and the urgent need for quality affordable housing across the country. The hearing also shined a light on how the nation’s housing shortage has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, further exacerbating historic discrimination and redlining in our country that contribute racial disparities in housing.
There were several strong endorsements of the Housing Credit throughout the course of the hearing, and in his opening statement, Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) stressed housing as a basic need for all Americans and lauded Congress’s investments in the Housing Credit program. One of witnesses, Audra Hamernik, President and CEO of Nevada HAND and an ACTION organizational member, highlighted how the Housing Credit is a model public-private partnership with strong, effective oversight, calling the program the “backbone” of affordable housing. Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Don Beyer (D-VA), lead cosponsors of the AHCIA, noted their support for the Housing Credit and called for passage of the AHCIA. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Ron Kind (D-WI), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), and Brad Schneider (D-IL) also voiced their support of the Housing Credit during their remarks.
In addition to Ms. Hamernik, other witnesses in attendance included: Dr. Elora Lee Raymond, Urban Planner and Assistant Professor in the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design at Georgia Tech; Dr. Akilah Watkins, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Community Progress; Dr. Christopher Herbert, Managing Director, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University; and Edward J. Pinto, Senior Fellow and Director of the American Enterprise Institute Housing Center.
Both congressional committees’ focus on the housing supply and affordability challenges across the country bring critical attention to the need to expand and strengthen the Housing Credit. Members of Congress and witnesses increased visibility of the AHCIA, making it a prime opportunity to convey the importance of cosponsorship and enactment of the House and Senate AHCIA legislation. Please be sure to thank Members of Congress and witnesses for their support of the Housing Credit and AHCIA, and join us as we continue our work to build support for passage of legislation.