Tax reform could be catastrophic for millions of low-income families
© Getty Images

Nearly 1 million homes affordable to low-income families, seniors and veterans are at risk as Congress negotiates a final tax bill. That’s 1 million households whose stability, health and economic well-being is threatened. We cannot let this happen.

The need for these homes is clear. Over 19 million families nationwide already spend more than half of their income each month on housing, and that number keeps growing.

ADVERTISEMENT
Successful methods for meeting these needs are also clear. Multifamily Housing Bonds, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), and the New Markets Tax Credit are three tools that towns, cities and states already use to provide stable homes to hardworking families, grow local businesses and promote stronger communities. 

Yet the current tax reform bills threaten these tools. The House bill, which just passed, would decimate our ability to build and preserve affordable homes and revitalize neighborhoods. It would slash production of homes affordable to low-income families, seniors and veterans by two-thirds over the next decade. The Senate version rejects some of the most devastating cuts proposed by House Republicans, and would even strengthen the Housing Credit in several ways -- but it would still create fewer affordable homes at a moment when we need them more than ever.

As Congress develops a final bill, our leaders in Washington need to fight for the resources that support the production and preservation of affordable homes nationwide. Research has shown that stable, affordable housing leads to better educational opportunities, better health, better access to jobs. 

To ensure that tax reform continues to support low-income families and communities, there are three steps Congress must take:

First, preserve multifamily Housing Bonds. More than half of all developments that use the Housing Credit, which finances most of America’s affordable homes, rely on financing from Housing Bonds. The House bill eliminates these bonds, which could cut the number of affordable homes by nearly 900,000 over the next decade. Preserving current production levels requires preserving multifamily Housing Bonds.

Second, keep the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit strong. The Housing Credit has been responsible for providing more than 3 million affordable homes since it was created in 1986. Both the House and Senate bills do retain the Credit, but a lower corporate tax rate means investors would be willing to pay less for these credits, and those reduced prices would mean fewer dollars for development of affordable housing. The reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would translate to a loss of up to 200,000 affordable homes over 10 years unless we change the way Housing Credits are allocated to offset this impact. 

Finally, retain the New Markets Tax Credit. The New Markets Tax Credit has leveraged over $80 billion in public-private investments and created more than 750,000 jobs in some of the country’s most distressed neighborhoods. Without it, we’ll lose a targeted but modest incentive that brings investors to areas that suffer from deep poverty and lack connections to opportunity. 

At a time when we are already struggling to provide enough affordable homes for the people who need them and enough investment in the communities with the greatest needs, losing even one part of this ecosystem would be a devastating blow. Multifamily Housing Bonds, the Housing Credit, and the New Markets Tax Credit deserve to be protected throughout tax reform. They have provided millions of families better opportunities and grown our economy. Without them, our entire nation loses. 

Terri Ludwig is president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.