As Rents Skyrocket and America’s Housing Crisis Grows, Cantwell, Hatch Introduce Bill to Expand Development of Affordable Housing

Legislation would help build 400,000 additional affordable housing units across U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Finance Committee member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced today the bipartisan Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act to expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by 50 percent to help combat the country’s growing affordable housing crisis affecting all corners of the nation. The bill is also co-sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking member of the Finance Committee, and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Under the Cantwell/Hatch proposal, the expanded LIHTC would help create or preserve approximately 1,300,000 affordable homes over a 10 year period – an increase of 400,000 more units than is possible under the current program.

“Affordable housing is a crisis all across America. With skyrocketing rents and an increase in homelessness, more affordable housing units are a necessity. That is why today, Senator Hatch and I are introducing legislation to expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. By building more affordable housing units across the United States, more people can have a shot at the American Dream,” said Cantwell.

See how a 50% increase to the LIHTC would affect your state

In addition to expanding the credit, the legislation would also create a new income-averaging option to help developments maintain financial feasibility while providing a deeper level of affordability. The bill also enacts a permanent 4% credit rate floor for acquisition and bond-financed projects, providing more predictability and flexibility in financing these projects.

Earlier this year, Cantwell, along with the ACTION Campaign – a coalition of 1,300 affordable housing organizations across the country – began a national campaign in Seattle to increase federal resources for affordable housing and build support for expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Cantwell has held events in Tacoma, Spokane, Walla Walla, Kitsap and New York City.

Cantwell also released a report, “Addressing the Challenges of Affordable Housing & Homelessness: The Housing Tax Credit,” which found that across the country there are 3.9 million extremely low-income families – 169,000 of whom live in Washington state –  that lack access to affordable housing. The report also noted that the January 2015 point-in-time homelessness count documented 564,708 individuals experience homelessness across the United States.

In December of last year, Cantwell championed the LIHTC and secured a critical fix to the program by permanently extending the credit rates to 9 percent of eligible costs on new construction. This ended an era when variable rates made financing of affordable housing less predictable.

Since its creation 30 years ago, this tax credit has financed nearly 2.9 million homes across the United States, leveraging more than $100 billion in private investment. Between 1986 and 2013, more than 13.3 million people have lived in homes that have been financed by the LIHTC.