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An affordable housing solution both parties can get behind

America is facing a housing affordability crisis that is already serious and continues to grow. Rising rents and stagnant wages have left lower-income households in every state struggling to afford stable places to call home. One in four renters—11 million families—are now forced to pay more than half their income in housing costs, leaving too little for other necessities like healthy food and medicine. And as many federal, state and local affordable housing resources stagnate or even decline, there’s no end in sight.

We need bold, bipartisan leadership to address our nation’s shortage of affordable housing, and last week, we got just that – with new legislation in the Senate to expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), America’s main tool for creating and preserving affordable rental housing.

{mosads}Introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016 would gradually expand the Housing Credit by 50 percent, helping to create or preserve 400,000 more affordable homes than would be possible under the current program.

Nearly all of the affordable homes developed each year in the United States are financed using the Housing Credit – totaling nearly 3 million since President Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1986. The Housing Credit enables states to respond to specific local needs and direct resources where they are needed most, to seniors, veterans, homeless families, teachers and people with disabilities in urban and rural areas alike. Housing Credit development has brought more than $100 billion in private investment into communities nationwide while supporting 96,000 jobs every year, bringing economic benefits to every community.

The Housing Credit’s success is grounded in its unique public-private model. It brings financial resources, market discipline and accountability from the private sector into affordable housing developments through an efficient and accountable delivery system. Private investors take on the financial risk of development and receive tax credits only after properties are completed and occupied by eligible low-income tenants, so the private sector is closely involved in monitoring and oversight. Developments financed using the Housing Credit also undergo a rigorous approval process by state allocating agencies.

The Housing Credit is a proven solution to a problem that affects every community nationwide. Stable, affordable housing is the most important support families need in order to thrive, yet no state, county or city in the U.S. has enough of it. As a result, kids find it hard to do well in school, adults struggle to get or keep jobs and it’s harder for families to stay healthy.

We have a long way to go to break entrenched cycles of poverty and ensure that every family has access to opportunity through housing they can afford in communities connected to good schools, jobs, health care and transit. But the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2016 is a strong start, and it’s time for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to join their colleagues in supporting this highly successful and critically needed tool to ease America’s growing housing affordability crisis.

Blatchford, former chief of staff at HUD and current SVP, Enterprise Community Partners, one of the nation’s leading affordable housing and community development organizations.

Tags Maria Cantwell Orrin Hatch

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