Tony Bertoldi, a longtime affordable housing professional, is adding a new title to his resume—author.
He has written the new book “American Dream Come True: Why Affordable Housing is Good Policy, Good Business, and Good for America.”
Co-president of CREA, a low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) syndication company, Bertoldi combines his industry knowledge, personal narratives, and national data to make a compelling case for why everyone should care about affordable housing.
What led you to write the book?
The idea generated from my experience attempting to explain what I do to the people in my personal life. Most people don’t know about the LIHTC industry, and an extension of that is not understanding what affordable housing is. For every person who does have an idea, there are just as many misconceptions. From the beginning, “American Dream Come True” was meant to address what affordable housing is and why it’s important.
Who did you have in mind when writing the book?
Friends and colleagues in the LIHTC business all understand and know the value of affordable housing and its role in communities and the economy. However, to fill the gap, we must create value through understanding within the mind's eye of the general American population. My focus is on average Americans, and I hope that this book can turn quick dismissals into long-lasting understanding that supports affordable housing in legislation, during conversations with family and friends, and within all communities.
In the book, you dispel several myths about affordable housing. What myth do you think is the most pervasive and hardest to change?
The most pervasive: In the plain vanilla LIHTC deal, most residents pay 30% of their income as rent. A massive misconception is that people don’t pay anything for these apartment homes—that it’s a complete government handout and the government is carrying their rent. That’s simply not true. Residents are paying rent, they’re just paying what’s affordable to them (30% of their income). This is just another form of government subsidy to aid working individuals and families in affording a decent place to live.
The hardest to change: Two-thirds of Americans own a home, and most homeowners have a mortgage. Those who have a mortgage take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction on their tax return. This essentially serves as a government subsidy by reducing taxable income from the interest paid on the mortgage. While homeowners taking advantage of this deduction might not see it similarly, I don’t see how it is different from the U.S. government subsidizing rents for residents who can’t afford the cost to live in a safe, decent home.
What did you learn from writing the book?
It’s one thing to have opinions—it’s another to know the facts that support them. When writing a book, the research is vital to providing data that supports your assertions. Another thing is that books are a snapshot in time. Things change—especially over a writing, editing, and publication period. Since writing “American Dream Come True,” there have been changes to interest rates, financial markets, and inflation. I quickly learned that writing a book is like a balance sheet and not a living document.
What is your call to action for the affordable housing industry?
“American Dream Come True” calls the reader to understand affordable housing and help correct common misconceptions discussed among family, friends, and colleagues. Those in the business can act by lobbying on behalf of the credit in D.C. and writing to representatives in Congress about the importance of affordable housing and the need to preserve, enhance, and expand the credit.