Cantwell, DelBene Introduce Bill to Help Build 64,600 New Affordable Homes in WA State

Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act to boost resources for states & cut red tape for home construction; Bipartisan legislation would help combat nationwide affordable housing crisis, helping to finance nearly two million new units across the country in the next decade

WASHINGTON, DC – As tens of thousands of Washingtonians struggle to find a safe, affordable place to call home and homelessness continues to rise, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which would help build 64,600 new affordable homes in the State of Washington over the next decade.

The bipartisan legislation would support the financing of more affordable housing by expanding and strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Since 1986, the Housing Credit has paid for 90% of the federally-funded affordable housing construction across the country, and has financed nearly 3.5 million affordable homes.

“Too many families are paying too much just to keep a roof over their heads. Securing more affordable housing is a key to our economic growth and individual families' successes," Sen. Cantwell said. “This legislation would increase the federal resources allocated to each state, cut the red tape that hinders financing for workforce housing, better serve people most in need, and ultimately add more than 64,000 affordable units to Washington’s housing stock over the next decade.”

Photos of Sen. Cantwell visiting housing developments across the State of Washington funded by the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit can be found HERE.

“As I travel in our state and across the country, in nearly every community – urban to rural, red to blue – I hear how the lack of affordable housing is stretching family budgets and making it harder for employers to find workers. We know that stable housing increases the likelihood of stable employment and stable families,” said Rep. DelBene. “The scale of the affordable housing crisis is immense and it requires bold solutions. Passing this legislation will help jumpstart more affordable housing construction so more Washingtonians can put a roof over their heads and better provide for their families.”

“We have a pipeline of affordable housing projects that are ready to go across Washington state – we just need federal investment to get them built,” said Steve Walker, executive director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. “It is critical that we expand and enhance the housing tax credit because it underpins almost all our state and local funds that build affordable apartments.”

“King County Housing Authority applauds Congresswoman DelBene for her leadership to reintroduce the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act. The Housing Credit has been a foundational element of KCHA’s work to develop, acquire, and rehabilitate thousands of housing units affordable to low-income families. But the Housing Credit is a resource that is increasingly stretched across many critical projects. With families struggling with housing costs and housing instability across the country, it’s time for Congress to significantly expand this proven and successful program. Passing the AHCIA would accelerate our work here in King County and get more affordable homes to people in need,” said Robin Walls, Executive Director and CEO, King County Housing Authority.

“I would like to thank Congresswoman DelBene and Senator Cantwell for their steadfast leadership on this issue. A home is the foundation upon which people build better lives. Passage of this act will increase the supply of safe, healthy, and affordable homes in Snohomish County and across Washington state,” said Mark Smith, Executive Director, Housing Consortium of Everett and Snohomish County.

“The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act is an important piece of legislation that would significantly enhance the effectiveness of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. This program is a critical tool for addressing the affordable housing crisis in the United States, providing crucial financing for the development and preservation of affordable rental housing,” said Donna Moulton, Chief Executive Officer, Housing Hope. “By making the program more efficient and effective, the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would help to ensure that more low-income families and individuals have access to safe, decent, and affordable housing.  It would make improvements to better serve veterans, survivors of domestic violence, Native American communities, formerly homeless students, and rural Americans.”

“Affordable housing is a fundamental right that should be accessible to everyone. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act is a crucial step towards achieving this goal by providing much needed resources to create and preserve affordable housing options for families and seniors with low incomes,” said Joe Thompson, President, Mercy Housing Northwest. “This legislation is not just an investment in bricks and mortar, but in the health, education, and economic wellbeing of our communities. It is time to prioritize affordable housing and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act is a vital tool in achieving that.”

The bill would support the financing of 64,600 new affordable homes in the State of Washington by:

  1. Increasing the amount of credits allocated to each state. The legislation would increase the number of credits available to states by 50 percent for the next two years and make the temporary 12.5 percent increase secured in 2018 permanent—which has already helped build more than 59,000 additional affordable housing units nationwide.
  2. Increasing the number of affordable housing projects that can be built using private activity bonds. This provision would stabilize financing for workforce housing projects built using private activity bonds by decreasing the amount of private activity bonds needed to secure Housing Credit funding. As a result, projects would have to carry less debt, and more projects would be eligible to receive funding.
  3. Improving the Housing Credit program to better serve at-risk and underserved communities. The legislation would also make improvements to the program to better serve veterans, victims of domestic violence, formerly homeless students, Native American communities, and rural Americans. 

The bill would additionally generate 97,800 jobs and $11.03 billion in wages and business income in the State of Washington over the next decade.

Between 2006 and 2015, the average income in the State of Washington increased by 3%, but the average rent increased by 18%. Over 260,000 Washington households pay more than half of their monthly income on rent, cutting into other essential expenses like child care, medicine, groceries, and transportation. At the same time, over 25,000 Washingtonians are experiencing homelessness on any given day, an increase from pre-COVID levels.

Sen. Cantwell has long advocated for the need to increase the availability of affordable housing. Since its creation, the Housing Credit has helped build or restore nearly 100,000 affordable homes in the State of Washington. The economic activity that the credit generated has supported nearly 170,000 jobs and generated more than $19 billion in wages.

A summary of the legislation can be found HERE.