Legislation to expand and improve the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program has been reintroduced in both the House and the Senate today.

Sen. Maria Cantwell
Sen. Maria Cantwell

“We are thrilled to see bipartisan support for legislation that will increase the development of affordable housing nationwide,” said Emily Cadik, executive director of the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition (AHTCC). “Housing costs and rents across the country continue to rise at an alarming rate, and rental housing is simply not produced fast enough to keep up with rising demand. With this legislation, Congress has the opportunity to provide more than 450,000 sorely needed affordable homes over the next decade through an effective housing solution that engages the public and private sectors.”

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 1703 and H.R. 3077) seeks to increase housing credit allocation by 50%, phased in over five years. It would also lock in the 4% LIHTC credit rate for financing with housing bonds and tax credits. These changes alone would increase production by an estimated 450,000 homes over the next 10 years.

The legislation also includes new provisions aimed at making the credit more effective in hard-to-reach rural and Native American communities and for populations like homeless veterans, according to Cadik.

Unlike prior versions of the legislation, the Senate and House bills will be identical this year, she said.

“It will be more streamlined in terms of having the House and the Senate on the same page, and there’s more potential for impact in terms of expanding the housing credit and doing more to address our nation’s affordable housing crisis,” Cadik said.

“More than 10 million households nationwide pay more than half of their monthly income on rent, leaving too little for other expenses like health care, transportation, and nutritious food,” said AHTCC board president Michael Gaber. “Changes proposed in the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act will make the financing and development of affordable housing more efficient and cost-effective at a time when our nation’s affordable housing challenges have reached crisis levels.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who has been leading the charge for the bill for several years, continues to be a lead sponsor. She introduced the Senate bill with Todd Young (R-Ind.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

The House version was introduced by Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Kenny Marchant (R-Texas), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)

“Many of my colleagues know how pervasive this problem is, that not only is affordable housing a crisis, that the homeless population that results from not having enough housing stock in the United States of America ends up costing us more money to deal with the same population. This is not a new issue. It’s not a new problem. We’ve been trying to fight to address this issue in the U.S. Senate and deal with the affordable housing crisis, but the magnitude of the problem is getting worse. We need to respond by helping to increase supply,” Cantwell said, noting that the housing credit has had bipartisan support for many, many years.

“We just need to put the pedal to the metal and provide more of the tax credit so we can get more affordable housing built,” she said.

Passage of the legislation is one of the highest priorities for the National Council of State Housing Agencies, said organization leaders.

“We urge Congress to act as soon as possible so that low-income families, seniors, and those experiencing homelessness can access stable, safe, and affordable housing,” they said.