Housing Action Illinois, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, joined a coalition of fair and affordable housing advocates in submitting comments on the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s (IHDA’s) 2015 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). The comments focus on improving the QAP to ensure best practices to affirmatively further fair housing opportunities in Illinois’s LIHTC program. The comments, submitted on November 3, were the latest in a series of oral and written communications between advocates and IHDA regarding fair housing issues in recent years.
As a requirement of the LIHTC program, each designated state agency, typically a housing finance agency (HFA), must develop a QAP. The QAP must present a state’s eligibility criteria and priorities for proposed developments competing for tax credits. The process of developing the QAP requires public participation, which provides advocates a chance to influence how tax credits are allocated based on considerations such as income targeting and fair housing practices. In the case of fair housing, QAPs offer significant opportunities for advocates to address residential segregation and create expanded housing options in high opportunity areas for people with low incomes, people of color, and people with disabilities.
The comment letter touched on a range of concerns related to fair housing, including: affirmative marketing, tenant selection, meaningful access to accessible housing for persons with disabilities, and IHDA’s efforts to promote the siting of projects in areas of high opportunity.
The most significant portion of the comment letter focused on concerns related to state-mandated Certificate of Consistency and local Letter of Support. In past years, IHDA required both a Certificate of Consistency and a Letter of Support from LIHTC applicants, which could enable a local government to discriminate simply by refusing to provide both. Although the 2015 draft QAP would only require one or the other, the comment letter stated that such a change was not sufficient because it would still allow a jurisdiction to discriminate by either refusing to provide a Certificate of Consistency or a Letter of Support.
A Certificate of Consistency is a standard HUD form submitted by a local government where a proposed development will be located asserting compliance with the HUD-required Consolidated Plan. The coalition’s comments indicated that Certificates of Consistency do not apply to LIHTC projects that do not receive HUD funding. The LIHTC statute only requires developers to notify the chief executive officer of the jurisdiction in which the proposed development would be located, and to provide that individual with a reasonable opportunity to comment on the project.
Moreover, the comment letter argues that the Certificate of Consistency requirement has a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, and national origin, because it:
- Is inconsistent with the local notification standard set out in the LIHTC statute.
- Establishes an institutional mechanism for local “NIMBY” opposition to LIHTC housing without regard to the worthiness of the project.
- Allows local governments a “pocket veto” over LIHTC allocations.
- Deters developers from considering sites in communities resistant to affordable housing, and consequently constitutes an impediment to fair housing in violation of the State’s certification under the Fair Housing Act that it will affirmatively further fair housing.
- Is not a requirement that HUD imposes on IHDA.
Based on these concerns and evidence of local jurisdictions intentionally using it for discriminatory purposes, the comment letter requested the elimination of the Certificate of Consistency requirement.
The comment letter also expressed significant concern with IHDA’s local Letter of Support provision that requires applicants to furnish a letter of support from the chief elected official of the jurisdiction of the proposed project. If an applicant is unable to obtain a Letter of Support, IDHA allows the applicant to provide a reason support was withheld. According to Housing Action Illinois and the coalition, the local Letter of Support requirement should be eliminated or substantially revised for the same reasons given regarding the Certificate of Consistency.
The coalition praised IHDA’s proposal to award ten points out of 100 to developments located in IHDA-defined Opportunity Areas, which are areas with employment opportunities that do not have high concentrations of poverty, unemployment, or federally subsidized or LIHTC housing. While agreeing that the proposal generally has appropriate metrics for measuring opportunity, the letter suggests improvements in the way the QAP defines Opportunity Areas.
Housing Action Illinois and other members of the coalition are hopeful that IHDA will incorporate their recommendations in the 2015 QAP. IHDA is expected to release the final QAP by the end of the year.
The coalition’s comments are at http://bit.ly/1xX1JX5
IHDA’s draft 2015 LIHTC QAP is at http://bit.ly/1qI6fUo
The coalition of affordable and fair housing advocates that submitted the comments to IHDA includes: Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, HOPE Fair Housing Center, Housing Action Illinois, Oak Park Regional Housing Center, Open Communities, and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
For more information, contact Bob Palmer from Housing Action Illinois at firstname.lastname@example.org.