“Seeing is believing”?a cliché if there ever was one. But when it comes from the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, it becomes a mantra for the affordable housing industry’s grassroots advocacy efforts.
Hopefully not many of you are saying, “What advocacy efforts?” Anyone that is unaware that the future existence of the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program is once again in question is likely doing rehabs on the moon. Not since the LIHTC faced sunset in 1997 has the program been so close to the precipice of elimination.
For well over a year now, the industry has been working to educate members of Congress both in Washington, D.C., and in their states and districts. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), a supporter of the LIHTC, has been encouraging us to actually get his colleagues in the House and Senate to developments in their communities. He believes that seeing the LIHTC in action, as he has in his district, will allow them to witness how the tax credit promotes economic development, provides community services, and in many cases serves as the cornerstone of community renewal. Chairman Camp has been honest in his assessment that despite his support, it will be the bipartisan support of a majority of his colleagues that will determine the fate of the program. This further demonstrates the significance of our efforts to have affordable housing practitioners in cities and towns throughout the country, engaging their elected representatives at home and showcasing the developments in their districts.
So how are we doing in generating support for the LIHTC among our elected representatives? Current efforts are centered on extending and making permanent the fixed 9 percent LIHTC floor, which is set to expire for properties placed in service after Dec. 30, 2013. Our barometer for success in these efforts is the number of co-sponsors we have lined up for H.R. 3661, authored by Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), and S. 1989, authored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). As of July 12, there were 67 House co-sponsors for H.R. 3661 and 23 Senate co-sponsors for S. 1989. Considering there are 435 members of the House and 100 senators, we have some work to do.
As I have said often when meeting with groups around the country, when it comes to tax reform, the continuation or extinction of the LIHTC will be determined not by efforts in Washington, but by advocacy in every Congressional district around the country. To ensure the continuance of the LIHTC program, it is imperative that members of Congress and senators have a personal knowledge of what the LIHTC is accomplishing at home, visiting the apartment communities and meeting the families, seniors, and veterans that call these properties home. If they do not know if they have a LIHTC property in their district, the tax credit and the critical programs it supports are in jeopardy. “Seeing is believing.”
David Gasson is the executive director of the Housing Advisory Group and a vice president at Boston Capital.