Homelessness is a long, major concern for lawmakers across the country. Americans continue to grapple with affordable housing options and are looking to legislators for answers. Here are three legislative bills that could change the way we see the future of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC).
Housing for Homeless Students Act
A companion bill to a bill originally introduced on March 13, 2019, the Housing for Homeless Students Act of 2019 proposes to make homeless and recently homeless children, youth, and veterans eligible for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit affordable housing. To qualify for the tax credit, a full-time student “must have been a homeless child or youth during any portion of the seven-year period prior to occupying the housing unit or a homeless veteran during any portion of the five-year period prior to occupying the unit.”
The bill seeks to address current LIHTC program rules about the ineligibility of full-time students to qualify for LIHTC housing. Part of the concern is that if students choose to attend school part-time in order to retain LIHTC eligibility, they risk losing grants, scholarships, and student loans reserved primarily for full-time students. Currently, there is no exception for the“student rule” for recently homeless youth or veterans.
“Students and veterans who have battled homelessness should have access to affordable housing while pursing a full-time education,” explained Congressman Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio
who helped introduce the bill. Wenstrup added that a survey conducted in Wisconsin revealed that 36 percent of college students and 46 percent of community college students reported experiencing homelessness during the past year. The bill will allow students and veterans to invest in their futures without worrying about where they are going to live.
Hawai’i’s Long-Term Solutions for Affordable Housing
With some of the highest housing costs in the country, affordable housing is a major concern for Hawai’i residents. Real estate prices and rents are increasingly tied to international markets instead of the local market, income, andemployment, as discussed during an affordable housing summit in September 2019. Government leaders work to address the problem.
Advance talks are underway in the Hawai’i legislature to make the state’s low-incomehousing tax credit program permanent and remove a five-year limitation on claiming tax credits under the program. The bill would extend the state low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) beyond its original five-year sunset date on December 31, 2021 to December 31, 2027.
Hawai’i’s ambitious plans to add 64,693 housing units by 2025, with nearly 70 percent of those units for low-income households earning 80 percent or less of the AMGI, can only be accomplished with greater incentive for developers and property owners.
Under the current program, developers and property owners can only claim tax credits for the first five years. This bill will amend that date so developers can continue to invest capital into affordable housing and double the amount of tax credits allocated to a project, granted the state LIHTC does not exceed 50 percent of the federal LIHTC. This would result in additional equity generated from the sale of the state LIHTCs to investors to accrue to eligible rental housing developments.
LIHTC Transfers and Financial Assistance
Utah is exploring options to make low-income housing tax credits transferable in addition to other amendments for how the State operates the LIHTC program. Introduced to the state Senate on January 27, 2020, the proposed amendment will allow Utah taxpayers to transfer federal and state LIHTC certificates to another taxpayer, based on the second taxpayer’s qualifying to claim the tax credits and written notice to the Utah Housing Corporation.
Other modifications directly affect how funds are distributed from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund and allow the Utah State Housing and Community Development Division to partner with housing authorities and other entities in providing rental assistance to families with children who are homeless are at risk of homelessness.
As of January 2019, about 2,800 people were reported as homeless in Utah, and 260 of those were families, 211 were veterans and 163 were unaccompanied young adults. In addition, an estimated 13,838 public school children experienced homelessness over the course of the 2017-18 school year, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
In February 2020, Utah Senate Bill 39 proposed to spend nearly $15 million on loans to help affordable housing developers constructed over 2,000 low-income housing through the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund, and an addition $15 million into rental assistance to reduce homelessness.
As federal and state governments look for ways to bolster the economy and expand the use of LIHTCs to meet local and national needs, innovative ideas will continue to surface. Chronic social and economic concerns, such as homelessness, cannot be resolved until laws are formed to meet the crisis head-on. It is great to see lawmakers moving forward in strong ways to address these issues.