After a tumultuous day in Washington, D.C., the AHTCC is looking ahead to resuming our work with our partners in Congress. Members of Congress, their staff, and those who work at the Capitol and Senate and House office buildings make possible our work to advocate for affordable housing, and we thank them for their service.
With Democrats winning control of the Senate, the year ahead may present opportunities to break the legislative gridlock of the past several years. Senators-elect Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have won the January 5 Georgia run-off elections. Once they are sworn in, the Senate will be evenly divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats). Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will decide the outcome of any tied votes through her role as President of the Senate, giving Democrats the majority.
Though Democrats will have the narrowest possible majority, the majority status does afford several key privileges: leadership of the full Senate and all committees, the ability to set the Senate floor agenda and more easily confirm Biden Administration nominees, and the ability to take advantage of the budget reconciliation process, which allows the majority party to bypass filibuster rules and pass certain types of legislation with a simple majority.
In November, we provided a detailed analysis and webinar on what the outcomes of the known race results could mean for affordable housing. Below is an updated analysis taking into account the Georgia results. For more information, make sure to register for our Virtual AHTCC 2021 Annual Meeting on January 27 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm ET, where we’ll discuss the election results, our plan to advocate for affordable housing and the Housing Credit in the year ahead, and much more.
2020 ended with important wins for affordable housing, including the enactment of a permanent minimum 4 percent Housing Credit rate and provision of $25 billion in emergency rental assistance that became available yesterday. In 2021, Democrats’ unified control of Congress and the White House paired with ambitious policy goals may provide an opportunity to take even more meaningful steps towards addressing our nation’s affordable housing shortage.
Together, Congress and the White House may now bypass many of the past several years’ legislative roadblocks and advance a more closely aligned agenda. Whereas a Republican-controlled Senate may have been unlikely to provide substantial new resources in support of Biden Administration initiatives, securing funding for key proposals will be much less contentious with many shared priorities among Democrats. However, given the Democrats’ extremely slim majorities in both the Senate and House, legislative success will hinge on appealing to moderates. Once again, the broad foundation of bipartisan support we have built for the Housing Credit will be as important as ever.
Substantial investments in additional COVID-19 relief, economic stimulus and infrastructure, including affordable housing provisions, will be high on the legislative agenda. Last year the House passed infrastructure legislation, the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), which included a significant expansion of the Housing Credit and Private Activity Bonds and nearly a dozen key provisions from the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA) to expand and strengthen the Housing Credit. This set of housing proposals was also introduced in standalone Senate legislation, the Emergency Affordable Housing Act. Legislation like this, which already has broad support among the Democratic caucus, could potentially be incorporated into infrastructure or stimulus legislation in the 117th Congress.
We have already begun discussions with our champions in Congress to plan for early reintroduction of the AHCIA, and to strategically position the legislation for advancement through any appropriate legislative vehicles in the 117th Congress. We will provide more updates about reintroduction and ways you can get involved in advocacy soon.
The Biden Administration
The Biden Administration will also have an easier path to enacting components of its sweeping housing plan that calls for a $640 billion investment over 10 years, including strengthening and expanding the Housing Credit, providing Section 8 housing vouchers to all eligible families, creating a new renters’ tax credit, and providing a new $100 billion affordable housing fund, among many other housing proposals. We look forward to working with the new Administration on these goals and more.
It is also now more likely that the Biden Administration will be able to confirm cabinet and other leadership appointments quickly. We have been actively engaging with the Biden-Harris transition team, and have provided them with a memo laying out our most immediate legislative and regulatory priorities, so that we can work as quickly as possible to secure needed Housing Credit flexibilities from the Internal Revenue Service and work to ensure that new Community Reinvestment Act regulations support robust investment in affordable housing.
With Democrats taking control of the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will take the helm as Majority Leader, with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) serving as Minority Leader. Senator Schumer has been a strong advocate for the Housing Credit and was instrumental in including the minimum 4 percent Housing Credit rate in the 2020 year-end legislation.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a long-time affordable housing champion and a lead sponsor of the AHCIA, will become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Housing Credit in the Senate. Current Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is term-limited in his role as the lead Republican, so Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) will become the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Crapo is a supporter of the Housing Credit and very steeped in affordable housing issues from his time leading the Senate Banking Committee. Both Senators Wyden and Crapo were also influential in efforts to enact the minimum 4 percent Housing Credit rate.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), another strong supporter of the Housing Credit and a champion for rental assistance, will become Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) serving as Ranking Member. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) will become Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), AHCIA co-sponsor and supporter of the Housing Credit, will serve as Ranking Member.
With Democrats retaining leadership of the House, long-time Housing Credit champion Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) will remain Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Housing Credit in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), another long-time champion of the Housing Credit, was recently reelected as Speaker. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) will stay in their roles as well.
Assignments for other members to serve on the committees will likely be finalized in both the Senate and the House in the coming days, and we will provide further updates as committee assignments are announced.
Reminder: Join our Annual Meeting on January 27
For further analysis on what the election results mean for affordable housing and our plans for the year ahead, register for our Virtual AHTCC 2021 Annual Meeting on Wednesday, January 27 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm ET. Join us for timely panels focused on the new Congress and Administration, key legislative and regulatory updates, the state of affordable housing, and everything you need to know to effectively advocate for the Housing Credit. Speakers will be announced soon.
Registration is free for members of the AHTCC. For non-members, registration is $100. Once your membership is verified or payment is approved, you will receive your login information.