Affordable housing advocates are closely watching as votes continue to be counted in key Congressional races across the country.
“Republicans have made some progress in the House of Representatives, while we wait for a razor-thin vote in the Senate,” says Bob Moss, partner at MG Housing Strategies.The morning after the Nov. 8 election, control of the Senate was still unknown, with races in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada still undecided. A number of House races were also too early to call.
Even with much still to be determined, it appears to be a good day for housing, said David Gasson, also a partner at MG Housing Strategies.
“As far as I can tell we did not lose any of our champions,” he said, noting that Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D- Wash.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) all won reelection.
However, Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) are locked in tight races, and they’re supporters of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA), the bill that calls for expanding the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), Gasson said.
“There will likely be a Republican majority in the House, but not as big as some had thought,” Gasson said. “In short, I am still optimistic about an end-of-year omnibus budget and the potential for a tax package that could include some of our LIHTC priorities. With slim majorities in both houses, it is likely leadership on both sides of the aisle will want to begin the 118th Congress with a clean slate, or as clean as possible. I question whether they will have the support to raise the debt ceiling by year-end, but there will be conversations about this.”
There is a real possibility of a productive lame duck session of Congress that results in bipartisan legislation on government spending and potentially tax items, added Emily Cadik, CEO of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition. “This could serve as a vehicle for proposals to increase affordable housing production, like restoring and expanding on the expired 12.5% low-income housing tax credit allocation increase, and lowering the 50% bond financing test,” she said. “The next few weeks will be critical for affordable housing advocacy.”
Every new Congress presents new opportunities, Cadik said. "For example, Senator-elect Ted Budd (R-N.C.) was a three-time co-sponsor of the AHCIA while serving in the House, so building on his support in the Senate will be important."
Budd won election to the seat that is being vacated by retiring Sen. Richard Burr.
In Ohio, Republicans held on to the Senate seat of retiring Rob Portman when J.D. Vance defeated Democrat Tim Ryan. However, it’s unclear if Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” will fill Portman’s shoes as a housing champion.
“We will miss Sen. Portman, who also served on the Senate Finance Committee,” Moss said. “We have him to thank for saving private-activity bonds a few years ago.”
Another notable retirement is Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the Republican leader on the House Ways and Means Committee. No matter which party takes control of the House, the departure of Brady, who’s not known as an affordable housing supporter, means changes to the influential committee.
“Though control of both chambers of Congress still hangs in the balance, we already know a few things for certain: We will need to educate new members of Congress about affordable housing and cultivate new champions, and bipartisanship will be as important as ever with narrow margins of control in both the House and Senate,” Cadik said.
There were also a large number of housing measures on the ballot:
- In Colorado, Proposition 123, a ballot measure that would redirect 0.1% of state income tax revenues to affordable housing initiatives, was still too close to call as of the morning after Election Day, with 50.7% in favor to 49.3% opposed.
- In Denver, voters approved Question 2K, a measure that would allow the city to continue the 0.25% sales and use tax supporting the Homelessness Resolution Fund, which was first approved by voters in 2020. However, voters rejected Initiated Ordinance 305, which would have charged landlords an excise tax to provide free legal representation for residents facing eviction.
- In Los Angeles, Proposition LH looked to be approved by voters as of Wednesday morning. This measure would authorize the city to develop up to an additional 5,000 low-income rental units per City Council district for a total of 75,000 additional units.
- In Florida’s Orange County, nearly 60% of voters approved a rent control measure. The rent stabilization ordinance is aimed at limiting rent increases to 9.8%; however, it is currently blocked by a court order unless the county wins an appeal.
- In Pasadena, California, Measure H, an initiative that would cap annual rent hikes and implement eviction protections, was too close to call as of Wednesday morning.
- In Berkeley, California, a $650 million bond measure that would provide money for affordable housing and infrastructure projects, was in trouble. Measure L had the support of a majority of voters but not the two-thirds needed to pass, according to local reports. However, Measure N, which would authorize the development, construction, and acquisition of up to 3,000 additional low-income housing rentals, passed.
- In Austin, Texas, voters approved a $350 million bond measure to help the city develop more affordable housing.
- In Kansas City, Missouri, voters approved a measure that allows the city to spend $50 million over the next five years for affordable housing.
- In Charlotte, North Carolina, for the third time, voters approved a $50 million housing bond that will go to the Charlotte Housing Trust Fund, which the city uses to subsidize various affordable housing projects.
- In Baltimore, voters approved a $14 million bond measure to support affordable housing.