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DelBene, Cantwell Legislation Would Build Millions of New Affordable Housing Units Nationwide, 66,000 in Washington

Strengthened the Housing Credit would better serve workers, rural communities, Indian Country, students, veterans, homeless youth, and more

As thousands of Washingtonians are experiencing housing insecurity and communities around the state are facing affordable housing shortages and high levels of homelessness, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) today introduced legislation to increase investments in affordable housing, build tens of thousands of new affordable housing units around the country, and provide more resources and stronger protections for at-risk groups.

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would expand and strengthen the Affordable Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), also known as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, to create more than 66,000 units of affordable housing around the Washington state and better serve at-risk and underserved communities.

“Our nation's need for more affordable housing is at an all-time high because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should leverage the proven success of the Housing Credit to build more affordable housing units that will help more families find a safe place to call home,” said DelBene. “This legislation has earned the support of a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives in the past. Now it's time to get it over the finish line and increase affordable housing production across the country.”

“The State of Washington has an affordable housing crisis, and our experiences are all too familiar for so many communities in every state around the country,” Cantwell said. “Too many people are paying too much money to keep a roof over their heads, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the crisis worse. This bill will strengthen and expand our nation’s most successful federal housing program to build more than 66,000 new affordable units around our state and more than two million nationwide over ten years. We know this program works. Now is a critical time to invest in it to fight back against our affordable housing crisis and make sure we’re not leaving families behind.”

Washington continues to experience a severe housing crisis. Between 2006 and 2015, the median income in the state increased three percent, but the median rent increased by 18 percent. More than 450,000 households – or nearly 17 percent of all households in the state – spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, and nearly 220,000 of these households pay more than half of their monthly income. These statistics are even more drastic among extremely low-income renters in the state, 71 percent of whom pay half or more of their monthly income on rent.

The Housing Credit is the country’s most successful affordable housing program. Since its creation, it has built or rehabilitated more than 3.5 million affordable housing units—nearly 90 percent of all federally-funded affordable housing during that time. Roughly eight million American households have benefitted from the credit, and its activity has supported 5.5 million jobs and generated more than $617 billion in wages.

“Senator Cantwell and Representative DelBene’s deep understanding of this program is matched only by their dedication to making it even more effective,” said Steve Walker, Executive Director of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. “With so many critical housing needs in our state and nation, Senator Cantwell and Representative DelBene’s leadership and perseverance are truly appreciated.”

Nationwide, the expanded Housing Credit would build more than two million new affordable housing units over the next 10 years. The bill would:

  • Increase the amount of credits allocated to each state. The legislation would increase the number of credits available to states by 50 percent for the next two years and make the temporary 12.5 percent increase secured in 2018—which has already helped build more than 59,000 additional affordable housing units—permanent. This expansion would help build an estimated 299,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.
  • Increase the number of affordable housing projects that can be built using private activity bonds. This provision would stabilize financing for workforce housing projects built using private activity bonds by decreasing the amount of private activity bonds needed to secure Housing Credit funding. As a result, projects would have to carry less debt, and more projects would be eligible to receive funding. This stabilization would help build as many as 1.5 million new units over the next decade.
  • Improve the Housing Credit program to better serve at-risk and underserved communities. The legislation would also make a number of improvements to the program to better serve veterans, victims of domestic violence, formerly homeless students, Native American communities, and rural Americans. Collectively these improvements would help build an estimated 222,000 new units over the next 10 years.

Senators Todd Young (IN), Ron Wyden (OR), and Rob Portman (OH) and Representatives Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Don Beyer (VA-08), and Brad Wenstrup (OH-02) are also sponsors of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act.

Some examples of recent Washington affordable housing projects built with the 2018 temporary expansion of the Housing Credit can be found below:

  • Second and Mercer Housing, Downtown Seattle: Located on lower Queen Anne Hill, this project will comprise 91 apartments—20 percent for individuals leaving homelessness, and 80 percent for those in Plymouth Housing’s “Moving On” program. The “Moving On” program helps single adults who have lived in a supportive housing property for at least one year and have demonstrated a stable and successful tenancy “graduate” to more independent housing. This project would not have been financed without the 2018 increase.
  • Samish Way Redevelopment, Bellingham: This project is the first 69-unit phase of a new 150-unit affordable housing complex to be built on the site of the old Aloha Motel. The project will serve a mix of low-income people and help anchor the local community’s efforts to redevelop the area into a walkable neighborhood.
  • Spurling Court, Ellensburg: This new construction project being developed by the nonprofit HopeSource will add 49 units of affordable housing to the community. It will be available to residents who meet the income requirements.

You can read the text of the bill here.