NAAHL in the News
Banks to Trump: Spare Affordable Housing Programs
By Alan Kline, American Banker, March 15, 2017
Under construction on a parcel of land in Boston’s inner city that has been vacant for more than four decades is a $21 million, five-story apartment complex that will eventually house 40 low-income families or individuals.
Boston Private Bank is providing much of the financing, though Esther Schlorholtz, its director of community investment, said it could not do so without a fair amount of government support.
To cover the costs of building and operating the property and still keep rents affordable for tenants, the developer needed to obtain several layers of financing assistance that included two different types of tax credits and zero-interest loans or grants through two federal programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Those federal programs, Schlorholtz said in an email, “are key to making the entire financing work. They fill the project gap that no one else funds.”
But will those programs, which bankers and housing advocates say are crucial to helping solve the country’s chronic shortage of affordable housing, be around much longer?
The Trump administration’s budget for fiscal 2018 calls for slashing HUD’s budget by 13% from current levels, largely by eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
Thomas FitzGibbon, a former executive with MB Financial in Chicago and now an independent consultant, said that to make projects affordable for both the developer and residents, banks need programs like HOME and block grants to close deals. He added that if the programs are eliminated or curtailed, some banks could have trouble meeting their Community Reinvestment Act obligations.
“Under CRA, one of the things banks are challenged to do is drive capital into capital-starved markets, and it can be hard to do that without some kind of government subsidy,” he said.
Benson “Buzz” Roberts, the president and CEO at the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, said that the programs have provided a strong return on their investments. Citing HUD’s own numbers, he said that every dollar of HOME funds invested in the development of low- and moderate-income housing since 1992 has brought in $4.26 of private investment. In all, it has helped developers build, fix up or acquire more than 1.2 million homes and apartments.
“That’s a lot of production,” he said. HOME “has had a tremendously positive effect on distressed communities, and it’s been very cost-effective.”DOWNLOAD PDF
Trump Tax Plan, Not Even On Drawing Board, Is Already Roiling Rental Housing
Developers, financiers, and owners of low- and moderate-income rental housing are scrambling for patches for lost equity
By Andrea Riquier, MarketWatch, February 28, 2017
The housing development known as A.O. Flats, announced in March 2016, was hailed as exactly what Boston needed: affordable rental homes in a mixed-use building, just steps from a transit station. It would mean 78 middle-class families and residents – nurses, teachers, service workers – could afford to rent in Jamaica Plain, one of the city’s most sought-after neighborhoods, an area where 2-bedroom apartments are renting for about $2,000 per month, according to Zillow.
A.O. Flats was in a sweet spot, according to Bart Mitchell, president of The Community Builders, the nonprofit housing developer behind the project. “People embraced the idea of housing production being needed near transit, in a neighborhood for people with higher incomes but having it be for moderate incomes as well.”
The project was supported by the City of Boston and The Community Builders and had funding through a national initiative called the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, a program that’s enabled more than 43,000 housing units to be built over the past three decades.
But in November, after Donald Trump’s surprise victory, planned construction on A.O. Flats came to a screeching halt. The LIHTC distributes federal tax credits to the states, which work with developers to determine the best projects to meet local needs — everything from apartments to senior housing.
“We think we can take this punch, as it were, but if it just kind of lingers on with the threat of it being done but it not actually happening, it’s going to hurt,” Wehrwein said.
He and other sources believe the program has always enjoyed strong enough bipartisan support for it to be preserved in any future fiscal reforms.
“It [the Low Income Housing Tax Credit] speaks to issues that Democrats and Republicans both care about, it doesn’t involve a lot of federal bureaucracy, transfers risks to the private market, it has an excellent track record, and the deal performance has been incredible,” said Buzz Roberts, president of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, an industry group.
Prospect of Tax Reform Upends Affordable Housing Finance
By Kristin Broughton, American Banker, January 12, 2017
The mere whiff of corporate tax reform is said to be causing delays in bank-backed financing for low-income housing projects amid a severe U.S. shortage of affordable units.
Investments by banks in housing developments have hit snags in the two months since Republicans swept the elections, according to bankers, auditors and affordable-housing advocates.
The sense that tax reform is within reach for the first time in decades “immediately slowed things down,” said Rob Likes, national manager for community development at KeyBank. “We’re hearing about that from our clients and from the market.”
What’s the connection? The affordable housing market relies heavily on subsidies through the low-income housing tax credit program. Developers use the credits to fund as much as 70% of the cost of new housing projects. Banks make equity investments in the projects by buying the tax credits and in return claim a range of tax benefits over a 10-year period.
“Different banks are approaching this differently,” said Buzz Roberts, CEO of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, whose members include several large and regional banks.
Some banks have taken a “bit of a pause” on making new investments, Roberts said, describing it as a “prudent” move as banks wait for clarity on corporate rates (and thus potential tax savings) drop. Such decisions leave last-minute gaps in financial plans that have taken years to finalize, observers said.DOWNLOAD PDF
Panel Discussions Focus on Housing Policy in Next Administration
By Shannon Rieger, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, December 20, 2016
From tax reform to fair housing, the incoming Trump administration and new Congress are likely to adopt policies that could greatly affect housing, particularly affordable subsidized housing, noted speakers at a conference held in Boston last week. Organized by The New England Housing Network, a broad coalition of housing and community development organizations from the six New England states, the December 16th event focused on what the new administration and Congress will “do about the unmet need for affordable housing in our country” and what advocates can do to encourage a robust federal affordable housing agenda in 2017.
Speakers, including national experts, state officials, and leading advocates from throughout New England, touched on a variety of issues, including tax reform, the future of Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), infrastructure initiatives, anti-poverty programs, and fair housing policies. Everyone noted that many current programs and initiatives are threatened and that much of the discussion is speculative because there is tremendous uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s plans, as well as the likelihood that Congress may not support the new administration’s policies. Nevertheless, panelists discussed several potential strategies for bringing together an effective coalition to advocate for affordable housing at a particularly challenging time.
Discussants also noted that Treasury Secretary designate Steven Mnuchin and key members of Congress appear to significantly disagree on GSE reform. Mnuchin has said he is interested in seeing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are taken out of “government ownership,” restructured, and privatized. However, Congress has not demonstrated support for a “recap and release” of the GSEs. These disagreements may impede any efforts to reform GSEs, noted several panelists.
The conflicting perspectives about both issues within the Republican Party will make it hard to substantially change the tax code or restructure the GSEs, said Benson “Buzz” Roberts, President and CEO of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders. He also noted that “inertia is the most powerful third party in the United States”, and may slow down or even block substantial changes in tax policy or GSE reform in the next several years.DOWNLOAD PDF
Will Ben Carson Put Julián Castro’s HUD Legacy in Jeopardy?
By Bill Lambrecht, San Antonio Express-News, December 17, 2016
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro returns to San Antonio next month out of government for the first time in more than seven years, leaving behind an agency whose missions could be threatened by Congress and the new administration.
President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign vow to make “inner cities” a beneficiary of $1 trillion in infrastructure work over a decade brings a measure of hope to advocates of affordable housing.
Federal budgets could pose the biggest threat to HUD, given a return of spending caps next year and Trump’s promise to divert non-defense spending to the Pentagon.
But Benson “Buzz” Roberts, who heads the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, said he is encouraged by Trump’s pronouncements about investing.
The goal of investment might best be reached through the new infrastructure spending Trump talks about, coupled with an investment tax credit to rehab homes in downtrodden areas, Roberts said.
“The president-elect has spoken about trying to attract investment in distressed neighborhoods and the importance of making those neighborhoods good places to live,” Roberts said. “He has said he is committed to helping these neighborhoods, so I take him at his word.”DOWNLOAD PDF
Housing Advocates Seek New Tax Credit to Renovate Run-Down Homes
By Brian Collins, National Mortgage News, December 8, 2016
Affordable housing advocates are seizing on President-elect Donald Trump’s call for tax reform, hoping that a new tax credit program to revitalize run-down homes in distressed neighborhoods will be attractive to the incoming administration.
The National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders is pushing an initiative to create the Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit, which will provide tax incentives for the renovation and construction of owner-occupied homes.
“It is a strategy to revive distressed neighborhoods with significant poverty that have a lot of single-family homes that are in tough shape,” said Buzz Roberts, president and chief executive of NAAHL.DOWNLOAD PDF
Brown ‘Open to Figuring Out’ GSE Reform
By Ian McKendry, American Banker, December 1, 2016
The debate over housing finance reform appears to have new life as both Democrats and the next administration appear ready to take up the issue.
“I am very open to figuring out how we do this. I am just not sure where the [Trump] administration is,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., on Thursday while referencing comments Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin made a day earlier.DOWNLOAD PDF
Mnuchin said that the issue was on his top 10 list of things to deal with, pledging to “get it done reasonably fast.”