Congress must preserve Low Income Housing Tax Credit

February 10, 2011

The article "Recession takes toll on low income renters" (Feb. 4) sheds light on the dwindling supply of affordable apartments at a time when they are needed most. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is the largest creator of affordable rental housing in the United States and is funded through private investment. It is one of the most successful government programs in modern history. Yet, it is at risk of being eliminated with potential upcoming tax reform.

Since its creation in the Tax Reform Act of 1986, nine out of 10 affordable apartments have been developed through the tax credit program, a total of more than 2 million units nationwide. Its effectiveness comes from its structure as a private-public partnership in which private investors provide equity and states administer the program. This reduces federal costs, private investors bear the risk, and the federal government awards credits only after properties are built to appropriate quality standards and occupied by income eligible residents at affordable rents. If programs must be cut, we must make sure they are ones that do not work instead of ones that clearly do.

In Maryland, the tax credit program has financed 47,831 affordable rental homes, including 3,649 in 2008 alone, providing residents a place to call home and a real community support system.

One has to look no further than the story of Viola Jackson to see the real impact this program has had in people's lives. Born in Essex-Middle River, she married at 18 and moved out of her community even though she always dreamed of living near her childhood home. It wasn't until she was a senior and the affordable housing development Evergreen at Renaissance Square was built right next to her church that she realized it was possible to move home again. The Enterprise Homes development provides affordable units for seniors over the age of 62 with limited incomes but also much more.

"Everybody has their days," said Ms. Jackson, "but the good thing about living in the Evergreen Apartment is that we understand each other, and we help each other as best as we can. And we are bound together as a happy family. We care about each other." This affordable housing development not only fulfilled her wish of coming home but offers a welcoming community filled with neighbors and staff who care about her well being and safety.

Unfortunately, if tax reform leads to the reduction or elimination of the program, there will be a severe loss of affordable units in Maryland and across the country. Reading the statistics that the number of households with "worst-case housing needs" is steadily increasing or that 7 million households are paying more than half their monthly income for rent is a staggering reminder that our work is not finished.

We at Enterprise Homes fully support the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and encourage Congress to join together and ensure that it is not eliminated so that we can continue to provide the millions of families and individuals in need of affordable housing a place to call home.

Chickie Grayson

The writer is president of Enterprise Homes.

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