A new bill seeks to strengthen the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program through several significant changes, including boosting annual allocation authority by 50% and modifying program rules to further support preservation.
In this bill filled with big, sweeping proposals, there’s also a tiny, nearly unnoticeable change. In their Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 3237), Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) call for the name of the LIHTC program to be revised to the Affordable Housing Tax Credit.
It’s not a big change at all considering all the other key reforms included in the legislation, but it’s an important one that serves to describe the program while removing some of the stigma that comes with the term “low-income.”
When writing about affordable housing properties, I’ve tried to use “development” and “community” as often as I can instead of the word “project,” which can still stir up images of towering, troubled public housing structures. But, “project” still gets used by many of us, including me. I’ll try to do better in the future.
A recent conversation with Mike Alvidrez, CEO of the Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles, has me thinking about another word we use all the time—“unit.” For all the social good that affordable housing does, it’s also a business, and we often think about housing in terms of how many units a development has and the cost per unit. It’s the language of developers.
However, “unit” is a cold word best left for legal documents and, yes, business journals. When discussing affordable housing with residents or the public, the word “home” is much more personal, much more powerful.
“None of us at the end of a hard day at work says, ‘I’m going to go to my unit,’ ” says Alvidrez. “Nobody says that. We don’t say that because there’s a significance in ‘home,’ what home means to each of us and any of us.”
Donna Kimura is deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance.