The next few weeks are critical for affordable housing. The Build Back Better reconciliation bill may include the largest investments in affordable housing programs in decades—or may include none whatsoever. It’s up to advocates and practitioners to ensure that Congress preserves these affordable housing investments, especially as negotiators look for savings that they hope will smooth the way to passage.

Emily Cadik
Emily Cadik

Affordable housing has been a prominent part of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda from the beginning. The initial proposal from the administration would have financed the production or preservation of over 2 million additional affordable homes by investing $55 billion into the low-income housing tax credit and making historic investments in other housing programs. The House Ways and Means Committee has since approved a set of housing credit production proposals totaling nearly $30 billion, which would finance nearly 1.4 million additional affordable homes over the next decade.

We urgently need advocates and practitioners to engage Democratic members of Congress, calling on them to urge both House and Senate leadership to invest in housing credit production through reconciliation.

The Ways and Means Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill includes several key housing credit proposals that advocates have worked to advance for years as part of the bipartisan Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA). These proposals would increase the annual housing credit allocation by over 50%, lower the 50% bond financing test to 25% to unlock additional housing credit resources, and provide basis boosts to make more developments financially feasible, including in rural and Native American communities, as well as for extremely low-income tenants.

Still, despite support from the White House and Congress, many Democratic priorities could be left out of the reconciliation bill, including affordable housing. Congressional leadership and the White House are negotiating a lower price tag for the bill to gain the support of moderate Democrats, meaning all aspects of the Build Back Better proposal—the dollar amounts, the timeframes, and many programs themselves—are at risk for reduction or elimination.

As the pressure mounts to scale back proposed investments, we need all supporters to make their voices heard.

We urgently need advocates and practitioners to engage Democratic members of Congress, calling on them to urge both House and Senate leadership to invest in housing credit production through reconciliation. In August, the lead House AHCIA sponsor, Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), led a letter to House leadership in which a majority of the House Democratic caucus advocated for the inclusion of these provisions in reconciliation. Today, we are asking all House Democrats to continue to weigh in personally with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in support of the housing credit throughout the remainder of the reconciliation process, and we are calling on Democratic senators to make the same case to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition and our partners in the ACTION Campaign are doing all we can to advocate for the housing credit, but it is especially helpful for lawmakers to hear directly from constituents and those who have helped to provide affordable housing in their states and districts. When reaching out to congressional offices, it is particularly valuable to emphasize the local impacts of the housing credit, such as the benefits for residents and the broader community, the jobs provided, and how much more of an immediate impact we could have to address the growing affordable housing crisis with more housing credit resources. Please consider reaching out to your members of Congress and asking them to convey the importance of the housing credit to leadership today.

In the coming weeks, we have a very real opportunity to take historic steps toward addressing the affordable housing shortage through housing credit resources provided in the reconciliation bill—but we can’t wait. It may be many more years before the next opportunity arises for such significant investments in affordable housing. For the people who need affordable homes, for the long-lasting community assets we could build, and for the jobs and economic growth we could create, we need all hands on deck.