Bipartisan Group of 103 Lawmakers Urges House Leadership to Prioritize Affordable Housing in Next COVID-19 Bill
Walorski, DelBene Lead Call for Enhancements to Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to Aid Recovery
WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) last week led a bipartisan effort calling on House leadership to prioritize affordable housing measures in the next COVID-19 package.
In a letter, 103 lawmakers urged enhancements to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) be included in the next COVID-19 bill to support affordable housing production and address disruptions caused by the current public health and economic crisis. The Housing Credit has been a proven tool to expand affordable housing for over 30 years and will be essential in the recovery from this pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the existing affordable housing crisis worse. Before the public health emergency, 11 million American households were already paying more than half of their income toward rent. Now, over 54 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak began, putting their ability to pay for housing at significant risk.
The letter calls on four specific provisions to be included to increase affordable housing production:
- Increase the annual Housing Credit allocation by at least 50 percent. This would finance hundreds of thousands of much-needed affordable homes for low-income households.
- Enact a minimum 4 percent Housing Credit rate. The Housing Credit is tied to federal borrowing rates. Borrowing rates were slashed in response to the pandemic, forcing a dramatic hit to the Housing Credit rate. This puts thousands of housing development projects at risk of being financially insolvent nationwide.
- Lower the “50 percent test.” Increased development costs resulting from the pandemic are jeopardizing the financial viability of many projects. Lowering the 50 percent test would provide project flexibility during this uncertain time.
- Allow housing developments to access additional equity. These boosts will help at-risk developments move forward in difficult to serve rural areas.
“This pandemic has only exacerbated the affordable housing crisis our country was already facing. We cannot ignore this crucial area of our economy, and more importantly the working families, veterans, seniors, and low-income families who will be able to afford their homes during this time and in the years ahead because of the Housing Credit. We will continue to be focused on communicating the developing needs of this community during all stages of this recovery process,” lawmakers wrote.
Several of these policies are included in the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (H.R. 3077), bipartisan legislation sponsored by Walorski and DelBene that gained the support of more than half of the House of Representatives and nearly half of the Senate before the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of the importance of a safe, stable home. These broadly-supported, bipartisan proposals to strengthen the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit will help us keep affordable housing production moving to meet the vast and growing need,” said Emily Cadik, Executive Director of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. “We thank Congresswomen DelBene and Walorski for their leadership on affordable housing at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
“Lower-income renters are more likely than anyone else to serve in America’s essential workforce, yet they face mounting housing hardships,” said Stockton Williams, Executive Director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies and Co-chair of the ACTION Campaign. “Congress can help many who need it in every state by expanding the Housing Credit as Representatives DelBene and Walorski have proposed and many members in both parties support.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.