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Cantwell pushes for bipartisan federal low-income housing tax credit expansion


(The Center Square) – Expanding federal legislation that provides tax credits for development of low-income housing could boost construction of 7,000 additional units – to a total of 17,000 units – over the next two years in Washington state and more than 200,000 new units nationwide, says U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Cantwell was in Spokane Monday, touring local housing projects and asking civic leaders to push for congressional action on two bipartisan measures, the Low-Income Credit Improvement Act, S.1557, and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, H.R. 3238.

“We have over 246 members of Congress, nearly half of the entire Congress, sponsor this legislation, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, so this is a bipartisan issue,” Cantwell said during a news conference.

Cantwell said the House approved a housing program that she had supported and now action was needed in the U.S. Senate

“ … we have to get our House colleagues and Senators demanding that this bill be brought up and not wait until November,” said Cantwell, later adding, “It’s very close, but we really need to push it over the top.”

Cantwell thanked Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana for helping introduce the legislation. In the House, there has been sponsorship by U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Illinois, and Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., on a companion measure.

Cantwell made her remarks at Mother Theresa Haven in Spokane, a 48-unit affordable housing complex which used the low-income housing tax credit program to fund 70% of the overall project cost.

Sponsors say the housing tax credit, through public-private partnerships, has been the nation’s most effective tool for encouraging private investment in the development and preservation of affordable housing for nearly 40 years, but more now needs to be done.

According to a summary, the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would increase housing credit allocations, lower the threshold for private bond financing, and simplify credit rules. “Up to 1.94 million additional affordable homes could be financed across the United States and territories over the next decade in Congress were to enact the primary unit financing provisions in the AHCIA,” the summary states.

Cantwell said housing is critical for people to enter and remain in the workforce, start businesses, provide jobs, and build communities. She said expanded tax-credit provisions to encourage more private participation could lead to construction of over 200,000 new housing units nationwide and 7,000 additional units to the 10,000 that would normally be constructed in Washington state in the next two years.

“The Affordable Housing Tax Credit builds that housing … So that would be a real boost in the arm of our state, to these residents, to our economy, and families,” she said.

Cantwell recognized Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington for its affordable housing and homeless programs. Among its efforts, the organization operates five emergency shelters and five “haven” residential properties in downtown Spokane. The senator also recognized several other civic leaders for their leadership and support, including former state Commerce director and current Mayor Lisa Brown.