Senate Finance Committee Holds Affordable Housing Hearing
On Aug. 1, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “America’s Affordable Housing Crisis: Challenges and Solutions.” Committee members from both sides of the aisle acknowledged the need for more affordable housing and the role of LIHTCs as our nation’s primary tool for increasing the supply of affordable rental housing.
The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S. 548) was discussed, and there were many comments from witnesses as well as members of the committee about the need to strengthen and expand the LIHTC program. There are currently 20 senators signed on as co-sponsors of S. 548, including seven members of the Finance Committee.
There are several key provisions in S. 548 intended to make improvements in the LIHTC program. These improvements include income averaging, implementing a basis boost for apartments serving extremely low-income tenants, prohibiting local approval requirements, clarifying requirements around the definition of a concerted community revitalization plan, setting a minimum 4 percent LIHTC rate, and promoting development in Native American communities.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) opening statement reaffirmed his support for S. 548 and called on the committee to pursue bipartisanship both in advancing this bill and in tax reform more broadly. “Senators Cantwell and Hatch are demonstrating how the two sides can work together on major economic challenges,” Ranking Member Wyden said. “After a heated few weeks in the Senate, I know both sides crave a return to bipartisanship and regular order, and for this committee that would mean tax reform is likely on the horizon.”
In her remarks, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), lead sponsor of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, highlighted the role of the LIHTC in serving urban as well as rural communities, and responding to specific needs like veteran homelessness. She emphasized the growth in the number of cost-burdened renter households, citing projections from Enterprise Community Investment and the Joint Center for Housing Studies that the number of renter households who pay more than half of their income towards rent could grow to nearly 15 million by 2025. Senator Cantwell also underscored the high costs of inaction on the health and criminal justice systems, among others.