The message at AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE's AHF Live in early November remains focused on educating legislators, with some fine-tuning to address today's concerns.
The phrase “tax reform” is a scary prospect for the affordable housing industry, and the if and the when are still uncertain. We will have to wait until later in November to see what consensus the 12-member “super committee” comes to. And we'll await more details on the international tax reform discussion draft put forth by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.).
At the opening plenary session at AHF Live, although Orlando Cabrera, CEO of nonprofit National Community Renaissance, cautioned the audience to be careful of not overreacting to this perceived threat to the LIHTC program, he reiterated that it's not the time to be complacent. “It's been an incredible production device and one we should be highlighting,” he said.
In the past, the industry has lobbied successfully for the LIHTC program on Capitol Hill. But now, “this is a fight that needs to be waged in the local districts," said David Gasson, vice president of Boston Capital and executive director of the Housing Advisory Group.
Legislators tend to have more time and a willingness when they are back in their home districts to meet and visit projects. Meeting on their home turf can give legislators a new perspective on what a tax credit development does for their district instead of just hearing the words in a Capitol Hill office. By bringing legislators and staffers out to your affordable housing developments, they can witness firsthand who is being housed as well as the jobs and revenue these projects provide for their constituents.
Bob Greer, president of for-profit The Michaels Development Co., said it's important to reach out to all of your legislators to give them a better understanding of the private-public partnership and the program's efficiencies and strengths.
Michaels' strategy is a straightforward one that other developers can learn from to keep the program on the radar of their local legislators. The company sends out four letters to each elected official for each of its projects—the first letter after it receives the tax credit award to thank them for their support and to detail the local people who are involved in the deal; the second after it closes the deal with a list of sources and uses as well as details on how many new jobs and local revenue will be created; the third comes prior to the grand opening, with a request for the legislators to pick the date that works best for them to attend the event; and a fourth letter when people start moving in or at another special event for the project.
“Those that show up are the people who help,” Greer says.
Your advocacy efforts for the LIHTC program can make a difference. This is not only your chance to highlight the program's successes, but it's an opportunity to recruit new housing champions who will rally for the program.
“It's our job to move them,” Cabrera said. “We have a great story to tell."