Congress can help make housing affordable — it just has to act 

Barrister Apartments in downtown Cincinnati, scheduled to open early next year, is a housing policy success story. Utilizing federal low-income housing tax credits, this is the first investment in affordable housing in the city’s central business district in more than 20 years.

The project involves converting two vacant office buildings into rental apartments for service industry workers who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income. Not only will residents have shorter commutes, saving time and transportation costs, reducing their carbon footprint, but they will also save money on rent, which can be used for other important priorities like food, education, and a down payment on a home. You can allocate money.

As important as Barrister apartments are to downtown Cincinnati and the families who live there, unfortunately, they represent only a small portion of the estimated housing stock. 270,000 We need affordable apartments to serve Ohio’s most vulnerable families.

Ohio, like the rest of the country, is facing an affordable housing crisis. It is estimated that there is a housing production gap of 3.8 million units Nationwide and almost Half of all rental households That means you’re spending more than 30% of your income on rent. Production of new homes is on the decline, with inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain challenges and rising construction costs all slowing down the construction of much-needed homes. The lack of housing construction is not only impacting renters, who are paying increasingly higher prices for fewer and fewer available units, but also first-time home buyers looking to find their footing in the property market.

This country needs a thoughtful, persistent, and renewed approach to affordable housing production programs. The good news is there is significant bipartisan support for action in Congress.

The first step is to expand the low-income housing tax credit. Since its founding in 1986, this housing finance company has financed nearly every affordable rental home built in this country.3.7 million affordable housing units serving more than 8 million low-income households. Homes financed with mortgages, such as Cincinnati’s Barrister Apartments, are generally required to be affordable to households making less than 60 percent of the area’s median household income. In fact, they often serve even less wealthy Americans. And the tax credits require these properties to remain affordable to low-income households for at least 30 years.

In early May, a bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, which includes more than 20 provisions to strengthen and improve housing credit. The bill would create nearly 2 million more affordable homes over the next 10 years, primarily through provisions that increase the supply of credit and make it more available in conjunction with tax-exempt bonds issued by states and local governments. It will help finance housing. Congress temporarily increased the supply of credits in 2018, but that legal increase expired at the end of 2021. If Congress does not act, much-needed affordable housing units that would have been built will not be built, exacerbating an existing crisis.

Second, Congress should enact the Neighborhood Housing Investment Act to support the development and rehabilitation of single-family homes for homeowners in distressed urban and rural areas where home values ​​are low. In these communities, the cost of building new homes exceeds the sales price of the homes, and existing homeowners struggle to find financing for home repairs. The proposed tax credits would mobilize private investment to close the gap between development and rehabilitation costs and home values.

The bill has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It is expected to revitalize first-time home buyers and communities. This legislation will produce approximately 500,000 new homes over the next 10 years, while restoring vacant land to productive use, creating thousands of construction jobs, and increasing the number of homeowners in our communities. It is estimated that assets will be raised and local government tax bases will be expanded.

Addressing the chronic shortage of affordable and available housing for low-income renters and first-time home buyers requires immediate intervention and long-term commitment. If we don’t act, thousands more families across the country, the elderly, disabled, formerly homeless veterans, and low-wage workers will struggle to find a safe place to sleep at night. . And countless families will be denied the opportunity to build wealth through homeownership.

Together, Republicans and Democrats can help build much-needed housing across this country, give families access to affordable housing, and create a path to a more prosperous future. Let’s do it like that.

Rob Portman is a former U.S. senator from Ohio and a leader in affordable housing legislation. Robert E. Rubin, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999, is chairman of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, one of the nation’s largest community development financial institutions.

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