The lack of housing availability is upending the lives of working Americans from Los Angeles to Memphis, Tenn., from Seattle to Sarasota, Fla., and everywhere in between. The shortage of affordable housing is severely constraining our nation’s economic growth and is threatening Americans’ economic and geographic mobility, the very definition of the American Dream.

Tia Boatman Patterson
Gordon Lazzarone Tia Boatman Patterson

We could be doing more to address our country’s housing crisis, and Congress has an opportunity right now as it negotiates its spending and tax package. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2019, known as H.R. 3077 and S. 1703, would make a major impact by strengthening our nation’s most proven tool to create housing.

The bill will increase the value of low-income housing tax credit allocations and provide the predictability needed to make developments more financially feasible. The program is also very effectively managed at the state level, which allows states as varied as California and Tennessee the flexibility to address their unique needs. Additionally, a key provision makes housing credit properties in rural areas eligible for additional credits.

Ralph M. Perrey
Ralph M. Perrey

The urgency is real, and the crisis is not a red-state and blue-state issue. It is being felt equally in rural, urban, and suburban areas. In fact, there isn’t a single U.S. state where a minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment because there is a serious shortage of housing for working Americans everywhere.

The housing credit is the nation’s primary affordable housing tool and receives broad bipartisan support for its public-private partnership model, where 100% of the financial risk is on the private sector. No other housing program delivers results like the housing credit. Created under President Reagan, it has been used to create or preserve 3.2 million homes and has generated $344 billion in wages and business income.

It isn’t just that this legislation will incentivize housing—though it will to the tune of 550,000 affordable homes over the next decade. The bill has gathered strong support because it does much more than that. Expanding the housing credit will generate $48.5 billion in wages and business income, $19.1 billion in additional tax revenue, and more than 500,000 jobs.

So as Congress deliberates in December, the housing credit should be a key component of any negotiated package. For the 11 million Americans paying over half of their paychecks in rent, action to address our lack of housing cannot wait another day. This is the time to make a difference in addressing our housing crisis by passing the broadly supported, bipartisan Affordable Housing Tax Credit Improvement Act.

Tia Boatman Patterson is the executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency and the board chair for the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA). Ralph M. Perrey is executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and serves on the boards of the NCSHA and the National Housing Conference.