Cantwell Advocates for Affordable Housing in Build Back Better at Homeless Veterans Housing Ribbon Cutting in Yakima

Project received $9.3 million, more than 50% of its funding from Cantwell-championed program

YAKIMA, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Congressman Dan Newhouse (WA-4), State Representative Jeremie Dufault (WA-15), Yakima Mayor Patricia Byers, and advocates for homeless veterans and affordable housing for a ribbon cutting event at the Chuck Austin Place Veterans Housing and Services Center in Yakima.

“Housing supply hasn't kept pace with growth. Between 2010 and 2019, the average rent in Yakima rose 40% and incomes have only risen 19%...And that is why the Chuck Austin place is so critical, because it's a facility built with what is called the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which accounts for 90% of the affordable housing that gets built in the United States,” said Cantwell. “And these projects… can be tailored to the community's needs. They can be targeted at a workforce, at a population, or in this case, formerly homeless veterans, like Chuck Austin Place. That is why we're working so hard in Washington, DC right now to increase the Affordable Housing Tax Credit…With that tax credit, more projects like this can be built.”

Chuck Austin Place will provide 41 units of supportive housing for homeless veterans and their families. There will also be supportive services on site for dental, health and behavioral health care run by Yakima Neighborhood Health Services. The project received $9.3 million, or more than 50% of its funding, from the Affordable Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), a program championed by Senator Cantwell. The facility is named after local Yakima veteran Chuck Austin, who passed away earlier this year due to COVID-19.

Senator Cantwell successfully pushed to include $11.7 billion to expand the Housing Credit in the Build Back Better reconciliation package currently under consideration in Congress. In the current draft of the bill, if passed, the Housing Credit expansion is expected to provide more than 27,000 units of affordable housing and support more than 41,500 jobs in Washington state. Nationwide, it would provide an additional 812,000 units and support over 1.2 million jobs.

“When I took the tour here a couple of months ago, I actually learned that there was a veteran, one the first occupants here, who said this is the first home he’s had in 25 years…one of the things I love about this is that it's not just a housing facility. It is a service facility…where if the veterans are not yet ready to come into housing, and for some of them, [they] really are not, that they can come and have a place where they can be part of a family, where they can receive services, where they can have coffee, where they can play basketball. So many things that can eventually help them transition their lives into a more permanent situation because that is so necessary,” said Mayor Patricia Byers.

“You never leave behind a fallen soldier. You never leave a fallen comrade. That's one of the Army values, and they have equivalent values in each of the services. When someone doesn't have a home, a veteran doesn't have a home, that's a fallen comrade. And today, this project picks up those soldiers in Yakima County, those Airmen, those Sailors, those Marines, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of this today...Senator, your work on Housing Tax Credit projects all over this country, especially in our community, thank you so much,” said State Representative Jeremie Dufault.

With negotiations ongoing, Cantwell recently gave a speech on the senate floor about the urgent need to include affordable housing in the Build Back Better package. The expansion of the Housing Credit through reconciliation is supported by a wide range of stakeholders. In October, 44 mayors representing communities across 20 states and the District of Columbia — including Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Mayor Victoria Woodards of Tacoma, and Mayor Cassie Franklin of Everett — sent a letter to President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urging them to include the expansion of the Housing Credit in any infrastructure investment package. Another group of 33 Mayors sent a letter calling on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to ensure that funding for housing remains a key component of the budget reconciliation bills. And in late August, more than half of the House Democratic caucus signed a letter in support of the Housing Credit provisions in reconciliation.

Cantwell has long advocated for the need to increase the availability of affordable housing. In April, Cantwell led the introduction of the bipartisan Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 along with Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The legislation would expand and strengthen the Housing Credit to produce more than 66,000 units of affordable housing around the State of Washington and better serve a number of at-risk and underserved communities. Nationwide, the expanded Housing Credit would build more than 2 million new affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

Both LIHTC mayoral support letters are available HERE and HERE.

The House Democratic Caucus members’ letter available HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor remarks is available HERE, audio is available HERE, and a full transcript is available HERE.