The Oklahoma legislature on May 12 passed H.B. 2760, legislation that cuts the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act’s annual funding in half retroactively to January 2020. Legislators pushed this bill quickly through both chambers without providing an opportunity for the affordable housing community to provide input. Housing advocates now turn to the Governor Kevin Stitt, urging him to veto the bill.
The Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act was originally passed in 2014 with broad bipartisan support. It provides $4 million per year in affordable housing tax credits to support the development of affordable rental homes for low- to moderate-income seniors, veterans, and families. Between 2015 and 2019, $19.1 million in state affordable housing tax credits have been issued with a positive economic impact of greater than $839 million. Without a veto from Governor Stitt, H.B. 2760 will cut funding to $2 million annually, retroactive to January 1, 2020.
The bill is part of an effort to reduce the state budget in light of the current coronavirus pandemic. Advocates, however, say this reduction will not save the state money in the near term because tax credits are redeemed after developments are constructed and fully leased, which generally takes at least two years. They also point out that it will cost the state revenue from a loss of construction wages and materials, the state will lose thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs, and a minimum of seven developments and 562 apartment homes across the state will be at risk if this retroactive bill is signed into law.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing (OCAH), an NLIHC state partner, and its network acted diligently to influence the process of the bill’s passage, despite its rapid timeline. On May 6, the House inserted substitute language into the bill just hours before it passed through committee, and false information about the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act was prominent during a debate on the Senate side. While advocates worked swiftly the next day to address misinformation, the House began whipping votes for the bill and moved it up the agenda by several hours. The bill passed 59-41. On May 12, the Senate agenda – which did not originally include H.B. 2760 – was amended midday to include the bill. Advocates rushed to speak with senators, but once the session started, H.B. 2760 was moved up to the third item on the agenda and passed 25-20.
In a final effort to stop this bill, OCAH and its partners called and emailed Governor Stitt’s office urging him to veto the bill. The governor has until May 19 to sign or veto H.B. 2760. If no action is taken before then, it will automatically become law.
“It is unconscionable to lay budget shortfalls on our most vulnerable citizens without proper vetting and discussion, especially when so many are out of work and with an increase in evictions and foreclosures on the horizon,” said Lance Windel, OCAH board president.
For more information about the Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Act, visit: https://affordablehousingcoalition.org/