On March 7, 2023, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Tax Policy’s Role in Increasing Affordable Housing Supply for Working Families,” during which the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) was a significant focus and received positive mentions and comments of bipartisan support from several Senators. Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) called the hearing to create momentum for affordable housing legislation in the 118th Congress, and closed by saying, “The only thing that is unacceptable is for this Congress to take a pass on housing.”
The witnesses were:
- Denise Scott, President, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)
- Steve Walker, Executive Director, Washington State Housing Finance Commission
- Sharon Wilson Géno, President, National Multifamily Housing Council
- Mark A. Calabria, Senior Advisor, Cato Institute
- Garrett Watson, Senior Policy Analyst And Modeling Manager, Tax Foundation
The AHTCC worked closely with our lead champions on the committee as well as the hearing’s witnesses to highlight the importance of the Housing Credit, particularly the importance of expanding and strengthening the program by enacting provisions in the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), the primary legislation to expand and strengthen the Housing Credit that was co-sponsored by nearly half of the 117th Congress. See below for highlights of the hearing.
The video recording of the full hearing, the opening statements of Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID), and the written testimonies of the witnesses are available here.
Positive Mentions of the Housing Credit
Several Senators made positive comments about the Housing Credit, including Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) (who called the Housing Credit “the strongest tool we have to date”), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and lead AHCIA sponsor Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who focused her questioning on the need to restore the 12.5 percent allocation increase and the use of the Housing Credit in rural areas. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also commented that, “The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is not perfect, but it helps drive the development of affordable rental homes.”
Additionally, Ranking Member Crapo mentioned that the Housing Credit “generally has bipartisan support” and also said that “targeted tax policies, such as LIHTC, are important and a part of solving housing affordability and supply issues.” And although Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) did not attend the hearing, Sen. Crapo noted her support of affordable housing in his opening remarks as well. Lead Republican AHCIA sponsor Todd Young (R-IN) also submitted a letter to the record from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Terwilliger Center that calls for expanding the Housing Credit and enacting the AHCIA.
Three of the five witnesses also mentioned in their testimony the importance of expanding and strengthening the Housing Credit in order to increase affordable housing supply, while also specifically mentioning the need for restoring the 12.5 percent allocation increase, lowering the 50 percent bond financing threshold to 25 percent, and enacting other priorities in the AHCIA. Two of these witnesses were representatives of AHTCC member organizations: Denise Scott, President of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, who reiterated that, “the Housing Credit is the nation’s most successful tool” for building affordable rental housing, and Steve Walker, Executive Director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, who emphasized that “Because the Housing Credit is working, we simply need more of it.” Sharon Wilson Géno, President of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), who works alongside the AHTCC as a member of the ACTION Steering Committee, also spoke positively of the Housing Credit and stated she and NMHC “strongly recommend passage of the AHCIA” to increase the ability of Housing Credits to develop more homes.
The other two witnesses, Mark Calabria, Senior Advisor at the Cato Institute, and Garrett Watson, Senior Policy Analyst and Modeling Manager at the Tax Foundation, expressed some criticisms of the Housing Credit, and called for increase data transparency, among other reforms.
Reintroduction of the AHCIA and Other Affordable Housing Legislation
Though the AHCIA has not yet been reintroduced in this Congress, the legislation received considerable attention during the hearing, including from lead sponsors Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Todd Young (R-IN), and discussions are well underway to prepare for reintroduction this spring.
In addition to the AHCIA, two other pieces of legislation to address the affordable housing crisis were raised during today’s hearing. Chairman Wyden announced the reintroduction of his Decent, Affordable, and Safe Housing for All Act (DASH Act), and Sens. Cardin and Young announced yesterday’s reintroduction of the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, legislation that calls for the creation of a new federal tax credit for the development and renovation of housing in distressed urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods.