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Legislation to build more than 2M new units of affordable housing nationwide introduced in Congress

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(© W. Scott McGill – stock.adobe.com)

A group of senators and representatives have introduced legislation to build more than 2 million new affordable housing units nationwide in the next 10 years and better meet the needs of at-risk groups.

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 was introduced by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Todd Young (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Reps. Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01), Jackie Walorski (R, IN-02), Don Beyer (D, VA-08), and Brad Wenstrup (R, OH-02).

According to Harvard University’s State of the Nation’s Housing 2020 report, more than 30 percent of all households nationwide—37.1 million American households—spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

More than 17 million of those households were “severely cost burdened,” spending more than half their income on housing. These statistics come at the same time the United States is facing a nationwide shortage of 6.8 million affordable rental homes.

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 would expand and strengthen the nation’s most successful affordable housing program—the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)—to address that shortage by building more than two million new affordable units over the next decade and ensuring the program better serves a variety of at-risk and underserved communities.

The legislation would:

  • Increase the amount of credits allocated to each state. The legislation would increase the number of credits available to states by 50 percent for the next two years and make the temporary 12.5 percent increase secured in 2018—which has already helped build more than 59,000 additional affordable housing units—permanent. This expansion would help build an estimated 299,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.
  • Increase the number of affordable housing projects that can be built using private activity bonds. This provision would stabilize financing for workforce housing projects built using private activity bonds by decreasing the amount of private activity bonds needed to secure LIHTC funding. As a result, projects would have to carry less debt, and more projects would be eligible to receive funding. This stabilization would help build as many as 1.5 million new units over the next decade.
  • Improve the LIHTC program to better serve at-risk and underserved communities. The legislation would also make a number of improvements to the program to better serve veterans, victims of domestic violence, formerly homeless students, Native American communities, and rural Americans. Collectively these improvements would help build an estimated 222,000 new units over the next 10 years.

“The State of Washington has an affordable housing crisis, and our experiences are all too familiar for so many communities in every state around the country,” Cantwell said. “Too many people are paying too much money to keep a roof over their heads, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the crisis worse. This bill will strengthen and expand our nation’s most successful federal housing program to build more than 66,000 new affordable units around our state and more than two million nationwide over ten years. We know this program works. Now is a critical time to invest in it to fight back against our affordable housing crisis and make sure we’re not leaving families behind.”

“Our nation’s need for more affordable housing is at an all-time high because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should leverage the proven success of the Housing Credit to build more affordable housing units that will help more families find a safe place to call home,” DelBene said. “This legislation has earned the support of a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives in the past. Now it’s time to get it over the finish line and increase affordable housing production across the country.”

“As I travel around Indiana, one thing is clear: We need affordable housing now more than ever. This pandemic has strained the finances of countless Hoosier families and delayed the construction and rehabilitation of the existing housing supply, worsening an already concerning housing affordability problem across the country. Our bipartisan Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act will leverage private sector investment to increase the stock of affordable housing for families in both urban and rural communities thereby tackling the housing affordability crisis head on and leading to a better quality of life for Hoosiers,” Young said.

“The lack of affordable housing was a national crisis before the pandemic, and this emergency has made even clearer that millions of Americans are only a missed paycheck away from not being able to pay their rent or mortgage. This country needs more affordable housing, not less,” Wyden said. “Our bill includes common sense policies that would help create new affordable housing and better serve communities more likely to struggle to pay rent and experience homelessness.”

“For the past 35 years, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has been instrumental in providing affordable housing throughout Ohio and across the nation. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would strengthen this important tool and help further expand our supply of housing,” Portman said. “Congress must continue to improve the country’s supply of affordable housing, especially as many are still working to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As we get closer to defeating COVID-19 and rebuilding our economy, improving access to affordable housing will play a critical role in our nation’s recovery,” Walorski said. “The Low Income Housing Tax Credit has proven to be an effective tool to drive investment in affordable rental housing and provide stability for vulnerable Americans, including veterans, seniors, and those with special needs. We have an opportunity to build on bipartisan reforms – including the four percent floor rate Congress established at the end of last year – by expanding and streamlining this successful program. I’m grateful to work across the aisle to address the affordable housing crisis, strengthen communities across the country, and ensure workers and families have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

“My community, like many others around the country, is facing a crisis in affordable housing,” Beyer said. “This bill would expand and update the most effective tool for financing affordable housing, and take a big step forward in addressing the massive need for affordable housing across the nation.”

“We want Americans to be empowered and to have the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. One critical piece needed to achieve this goal is making sure there is enough affordable housing available for those who qualify. I’m pleased that this bill will help those in need, including homeless youth and veterans who seek access to affordable housing while pursuing an education,” Wenstrup said. “The pandemic has exacerbated what was already an affordable housing crisis, and this bipartisan bill will help the private sector meet the demand for that housing, providing some of the safety and stability required for working families to achieve the American Dream.”


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