The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing, “Tax Policy’s Role in Increasing Affordable Housing Supply for Working Families,” on March 8. Senators and witnesses discussed the effectiveness of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and opportunities for its expansion and reform. Witnesses included Denise Scott, president of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); Steve Walker, executive director of Washington State Housing Finance Commission; Sharon Wilson Géno, president of National Multifamily Housing Council; Mark A. Calabria, senior advisor with the Cato Institute; and Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst and modeling manager at Tax Foundation.
Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) spoke of the unifying nature of housing: “Few things unite Americans quite like the feeling that the rent is too damn high, or that saving enough for a down payment is a pipe dream.” The Chairman discussed several opportunities for tax legislation to increase housing supply, such as the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act,” which NLIHC has previously endorsed. Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that affordable housing is an area in which the Finance Committee “ought to come to similar bipartisan solutions” and cited NLIHC’s The Gap report: “Across the country, Americans are faced with unaffordable housing. Specifically, lower income Americans are facing a shortage of about 7 million affordable homes and the supply of affordable housing continues to fall short of demand, with the gap increasing every year.” Ranking Member Crapo highlighted the importance of LIHTC and added that other interventions are needed to address housing costs, such as reducing regulatory barriers and ending restrictive zoning.
Witnesses spoke on the importance of building more affordable housing to reduce homelessness and improve economic development. Denise Scott, president of LISC, highlighted the needs of extremely low-income renters. Scott noted that nearly half of all renters are cost burdened, and one in four is severely cost-burdened. “It’s not just the lowest-income populations that are struggling,” Scott continued, “although they’re feeling the most pain.” Three witnesses, Denise Scott, Steve Walker, and Sharon Wilson Géno, also called for enactment of the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act,” a bill with bipartisan support that would expand and reform LIHTC. Mark A. Calabria, senior advisor with the Cato Institute, called for reforms to ensure greater income targeting so more LIHTC units go to extremely low-income households. Garrett Watson of the Tax Foundation cited the need for more data on LIHTC’s effectiveness.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee asked questions and made comments highlighting the need for reform. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) said that “LIHTC is an extremely important tool, and it’s the strongest tool we have to date, but in and of itself is not enough.” Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) asked about the need for housing development in rural and Tribal areas, and Denise Scott recommended a basis boost for projects in rural and Tribal communities, which would spur development in those areas. Designating rural and Tribal areas as “Difficult to Develop Areas” is an NLIHC priority.
Watch the hearing and read testimony at: https://bit.ly/3FeHazM
Read NLIHC’s LIHTC reform priorities at: https://bit.ly/3Jus7ob
Read NLIHC’s Statement for the Record at: https://bit.ly/3yvBbCE