Bipartisan Support for Preserving and Enhancing LIHTC in Potential Tax Reform
On August 1, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing, “America’s Affordable Housing Crisis: Challenges and Solutions” that focused on proposals to reform and enhance the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), including the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” (S.548).
The Committee heard testimony from five witnesses:
- Daniel Garcia-Diaz, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO);
- Grant Whitaker, National Council of State Housing Agencies;
- Katherine O’Regan, New York University Furman Center For Real Estate and Urban Policy;
- Kirk McClure, School Of Public Policy and Administration, University of Kansas; and
- Granger MacDonald, National Association of Home Builders.
Committee members expressed their strong bipartisan support for preserving and enhancing LIHTC in any potential tax reform legislation, citing the importance of the tool in the context of America’s housing affordability crisis.
“There seem to remain many households facing cost burdens associated with renting, with perhaps as much as 26 percent of renter households having paid more than half of their incomes in rent in 2015,” Mr. Hatch said.
“This is a problem that should be ready for a bipartisan solution.” Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who introduced S.548, urged action by Congress. “If we do nothing, the crisis will be exacerbated,” she said.
Members and witnesses also discussed several opportunities to improve LIHTC through reforms that help the program produce and preserve units more deeply targeted to people with extremely low incomes, reduce barriers to affordable housing development in high-cost “high opportunity” neighborhoods, and enhance federal oversight.
As Dr. McClure noted, the LIHTC program would make even greater impact if it could produce more units affordable to households with extremely low incomes, whose needs are the greatest. S.548 makes improvements to LIHTC to achieve that.
S.548 and companion legislation in the House could advance either on their own or as part of tax reform legislation in the 115th Congress.
Voicing his support for the program and S.548, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) suggested it should be advanced with or without progress on tax reform. “LIHTC is critical,” he said. “It should be protected and expanded whether tax reform occurs in a bipartisan way or proceeds as a Republican fantasy.”