Cantwell Launches National Campaign to Increase Federal Resources for Affordable Housing

Senator, Mayors Murray, Strickland and Stephanson, along with advocates announce ambitious goals to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit - an important federal tool for financing affordable housing

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, and the A.C.T.I.O.N. campaign – a coalition of more than 1,300 national, state, and local affordable housing advocates who are urging Congress to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) – today kicked off a national campaign to increase federal resources for affordable housing. Senator Cantwell called for a 50 percent expansion of the LIHTC, reforms to better target the lowest income populations with LIHTC projects, and unveiled her report, “Addressing the Challenges of Affordable Housing & Homelessness: The Housing Tax Credit.”

Cantwell’s proposal would finance approximately 400,000 additional units of affordable housing nationwide over the next decade, with approximately 35,000 units in Washington state (roughly 4,200 more units than is possible under current levels of LIHTC financing).

“We’re here today to launch a national campaign to say that we need to increase the amount of tax credits so more affordable housing units can be built in the United States of America,” said Cantwell. “We know this is a big challenge, but the housing crisis is a big challenge. We stand here in this beautiful building called Patrick Place and ask, why not? Why not show that a partnership between federal, state, local government, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector can provide homes for people who were formerly homeless.”

Cantwell continued: “We’re here in Seattle today, but the campaign doesn’t stop here. We are going over to Spokane and on to Tacoma and then we’re going to other cities across the nation to take this message to the American people. We need more affordable housing and we need it now. So please tell your friends and neighbors to join the A.C.T.I.O.N. campaign and let’s make this story a reality all across America.”

The press conference was held at Patrick Place which provides affordable housing and support services for low-income and homeless individuals. Patrick Place received more than $7 million through the LIHTC.

“The undersigned businesses and organizations, representing over 1,300 national, state, and local affordable housing stakeholders…urge Congress to address our nation’s severe shortage of affordable rental housing by expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,” wrote the A.C.T.I.O.N. campaign today in their letter to Congress. “The Housing Credit is our nation's primary tool for financing the development and preservation of affordable rental housing, and our best solution for addressing the affordable housing crisis.”

Earlier today, Cantwell released her 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 nearly 19,419 homeless individuals in Washington state. Both the number of extremely low-income families and the number of homeless individuals have increased over recent years.

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 3 million homes across the United States, leveraging more than $100 billion in private investment. It has developed 75,400 affordable housing units in Washington state, and supports approximately 70,000 jobs each year in Washington state.