The affordable housing industry’s advocacy efforts for the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) paid off with the program being included in Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s tax reform draft earlier this spring.
With Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as the incoming Ways and Means Committee chairman and some turnover in Congress, industry leaders stressed the importance of educating members about the LIHTC and the tax-exempt bond programs at last week’s AHF Live conference in Chicago.
“The education starts over again,” said Bob Moss, principal and director of governmental affairs for national accounting firm CohnReznick. He added that the most effective tool was getting members of Congress out to developments to see the impact, the quality, and the residents being served.
Lee Harris, president and CEO of Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services, an owner and developer of affordable housing based in Kansas City, agreed. “Every time you have a grand opening or a groundbreaking, make sure you get that congresswoman, congressman, U.S. senator invited and really lobby to get that individual at your event.”
With federal budgets continuing to see cuts, it’s also important to start advocating for Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rural Development programs as well, said David Gasson, vice president at Boston Capital and executive director of the Housing Advisory Group.
“We need to undertake the same advocating effort of the tax credit program for appropriations programs,” Gasson said. “We’ll see less pushback and more support on the appropriations process.”
Meg Manley, senior vice president at St. Louis-based owner and developer McCormack Baron Salazar, said it’s also critical for the practitioners to be at the forefront of the education efforts.
“It’s so important that we don’t have too many investors, accountants, attorneys representing the industry. Congressional staff doesn’t understand what practitioners do. They need to hear that practical information from us,” she said. “It’s important that we keep a broad base in the coalition. No matter how many times we go [visit Congress], there’s still not a lot of understanding.”
David Heller, principal at Cleveland-based developer and owner The NRP Group, also reminded that turnover has been significant in Congress, and it’s important not to forget state legislators during the education process since they may be headed to Washington, D.C., in two to four years.