From the Field: Utah Legislature Passes Expansion of State Housing Tax Credit with Deeper Affordability

Both houses of the Utah Legislature recently passed legislation to expand the state’s low income housing tax credit program and to establish a new supplemental funding source dedicated to serving extremely low income households. The successful legislation is the result of sustained advocacy by many groups over several years, including Utah Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner. The bill now awaits Governor Gary Herbert’s (R) signature, which is expected given the governor’s original budget proposal included greater funding for all of the programs included in the legislation.

The new legislation will allow the Utah Housing Corporation to administer tax credits valued at up to $4 million. Additionally, $2 million is now set aside for the State Housing and Community Development Division to establish an Economic Revitalization and Investment Fund. Representative Becky Edwards (R) introduced and shepherded House Bill 36 (HB 36) to passage with strong bipartisan support.

The new $2 million appropriation for the Economic Revitalization and Investment Fund is a one-time allocation specifically for loans to develop and operate affordable housing. The loans, which can be no-interest loans with deferred repayment, must be used for homes that are affordable to households at 30% of area median income (AMI) and below. Apartments supported through the fund can remain in compliance for households earning up to 60% of AMI, as long as those households were at or below the 30% AMI threshold when the lease began.

HB 36 also provides $500,000 to create a pilot program offering reimbursement grants to offset property damages or other losses incurred by landlords who accept federal Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8). This pilot program was created after extensive debate during the 2016 legislative session in which advocates successfully defended Utah’s protections against source-of-income discrimination under the state’s Fair Housing Act (see Memo, 3/21/16). The pilot program is based on a previous effort in Oregon—the Housing Choice Landlord Guarantee Program—implemented to assuage landlords worried that accepting vouchers would lead to increased property destruction and rent delinquency.

The campaign to pass HB 36 included more than just traditional affordable housing advocates, garnering support from the Utah Apartment Association, the Utah Transit Authority, and the Utah Bankers Association. The broad nature of the coalition played a significant role in gaining a 62-9 vote in the House and a 25-1 vote in the Senate. Advocates will continue to argue for further expansion of the Economic Revitalization and Investment Fund in future legislative sessions.

“HB 36 is a terrific step forward for affordability in Utah, and it allows us to make progress toward reducing homelessness,” said Tara Rollins, executive director of the Utah Housing Coalition. “We are delighted to see a growing consensus that our limited resources must be devoted to those households who have the deepest needs.”

For more information about HB 36 and other advocacy in Utah, contact Tara Rollins at trollins@xmission.com.    

Read HB 36 as passed by the legislature at: http://bit.ly/2nhQWdG