Legislative Update

Robert Rozen

March 4, 2019

With the election of a new Congress in November, 2018 the state of play in Washington has changed considerably. While Republicans continue to hold the White House and Senate, Democrats have assumed control of the House. This alters the landscape for tax and budget legislation, making it more difficult to move legislation through Congress to enactment. 

However, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (“Housing Credit”) has always commanded strong bipartisan support and fortunately that support will endure notwithstanding the changes in Congress. Yes, the program lost its primary Republican Senate sponsor, the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orin Hatch (R-UT) who retired. But at the same time, our primary Democratic House supporter, Richard Neal (D-MA) has become the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. With the considerable turnover in Congress, the tax-writing committees which are responsible for the Housing Credit, have many new Members. Some of our strong supporters are no longer serving in Congress. New Members, who we must get to know, have joined the tax writing committees in the House and Senate.

With the convening of a new Congress all legislation from the previous Congress dies and new bills must be introduced. As of this writing, much work is being devoted to reviewing the Housing Credit bills from the last Congress, and to lining up our key sponsors. The bills are expected to include a handful of new provisions reflecting issues that have arisen in the last few years. The Senate bill from the last Congress eventually attracted the sponsorship of 46 Senators while the House bill had 183 cosponsors. That is an achievement that the Housing Credit community can be proud of. While a long list of cosponsors is not a guarantee that legislation will be enacted in full, the broad, bipartisan congressional support we enjoy is a very positive indicator for the program. It helps insulate us from outside attack and increases our ability to get more resources for affordable housing. The challenge this year and next is to generate as much support for the Housing Credit bills introduced in this Congress.

In the last Congress, the House and Senate bills were identical except the House bill did not include the 50% increase in the credit allocation cap. Our objective this year is to introduce identical bills in both bodies. We don’t expect these bills to be enacted without changes. Nor do we expect the bills to move on their own independently. Individual tax bills are generally incorporated into larger legislation and the prospects for appropriate vehicles are hard to discern right now with the beginning of a new Congress. But that is not our focus. Our job is to continue to engage elected officials, make sure they understand the crisis in affordable housing, and build support for our efforts to get more resources for the Housing Credit program. At some point, an appropriate legislative vehicle will come forth and with the strong support that we have built for our legislation we will be able to make a case for inclusion in the broader bill.

Building that support is a responsibility for the entire affordable housing community. We have met the challenge in the past and must continue to do so going forward. Congress changes, majorities come and go, but with all our efforts the Housing Credit will continues to enjoy broad bipartisan support and we will eventually get more resources for affordable housing.