NLIHC relaunched of the United for Homes (UFH) campaign with a webinar attended by some of the more than 2300 current organizational UHF endorsers on January 11. The campaign calls on Congress to make modest reforms to the mortgage interest deduction (MID) to provide tax relief to more low and moderate income homeowners and to reinvest the savings into rental housing solutions to end homelessness and housing poverty. NLIHC will host another session for UFH endorsers on media tools, templates and best practices on February 8 at 2 pm ET.
The relaunch webinar included previews of a new UFH website that will go live in February and a host of new advocacy tools to help UFH endorsers spread the message about reinvesting savings from tax reform into affordable housing programs that serve families with the greatest need. The call also featured Carol Wayman of Representative Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) office, announcing Rep. Ellison’s Dear Colleague letter urging his House colleagues to join him in sharing the UFH campaign’s core message with the Ways and Means Committee: that any changes to the MID, whether direct or indirect, must ensure that those housing dollars are redirected to housing solutions for the lowest income people (see previous article in Memo)
With comprehensive tax reform a top priority for the new administration and Congress, and with reforms to the MID being actively considered by key policymakers, we have a tremendous opportunity to increase rental housing resources for the lowest income households while also benefitting lower income homeowners—without any additional cost to the federal government.
The federal government spends approximately $200 billion each year to help Americans buy and rent their homes. Three-quarters of those resources goes to subsidize higher income homeowners—most of whom would be stably housed without the government’s help—through the MID and other homeownership tax breaks. Just one quarter is left to assist the poorest families with the greatest needs. Each year, we spend more to subsidize the homes of 7 million households with incomes over $200,000 than we do to help the more than 55 million households with incomes of $50,000 or less, those far more likely to struggle to afford housing.
The MID is our nation’s largest housing subsidy, but it is poorly targeted, primarily benefitting America’s highest income households. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the nation’s top 20% wealthiest households receive 75% of the benefits of the MID and the top 1% get 15% of the benefits. Four out of every 10 dollars spent on the MID benefit families earning more than $200,000 a year, and 8 out of every 10 dollars goes to families making more than $100,000. Three-fourths of all taxpayers - households who rent and approximately half of all homeowners, those who take the standard deduction on their taxes - do not benefit from the MID. Moreover, economists agree that the MID does little to promote homeownership: those who benefit from the MID would choose to buy a home with or without the tax benefit.
The UFH campaign calls for lowering the portion of a mortgage eligible for tax relief from $1 million to $500,000 and converting the deduction to a nonrefundable credit. These two changes would a) give tax relief to 15 million lower income homeowners who do not currently benefit from the MID and b) generate approximately $241 billion in savings over ten years to invest in affordable housing programs serving the lowest income families with the greatest needs.
With tax reform on the near horizon, those involved in the UFH campaign will work to ensure that any savings from MID reform be kept in the housing sector to benefit lower income households.
We urge UFH endorsers to register for the February 8 webinar on UFH media tools and strategies at: http://bit.ly/2irHS2E
If you are not already a UFH endorser, please join the campaign at: http://nlihc.org/unitedforhomes/support
If you are not sure if you are a UFH endorser, check the list of current endorsers at: http://bit.ly/2hXD7O1