U.S. Sen.Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he is pushing legislation to help provide more affordable housing options for military service members. The Military Families Affordable Homes Act of 2009 would enable more military personnel to apply to live in designated affordable housing communities.

Current policies make it nearly impossible for even the lowest-paid enlisted personnel to meet the income requirements for the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program, said Schumer.

Under current law, real estate developers qualify for and sell LIHTCs to investors to raise capital for the construction and maintenance of rental properties with affordable rates. However, these rental units are not open to everyone. A LIHTC affordable housing unit requires at least 20 percent of the units to be occupied by households that have an income at or below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) or at least 40 percent of the units must be occupied by households that have an income at or below 60 percent of the AMI. The AMI is determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Most enlisted military personnel have total annual pay that is below the cutoff for LIHTC housing. Despite this, when military personnel apply for LIHTC housing, their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is added to their total annual pay for the purposes of calculating income—and as a result, nearly all military families are excluded.

In 2008, Congress passed a very limited exception to this policy, allowing service members stationed at only nine select installations to apply for LIHTC housing without including their BAH.

Under the Military Families Affordable Homes Act, military service families across the country will be able to exclude their BAH from the qualification calculations meaning that more will have access to the LIHTC program.