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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the tag “low income housing tax credits”

Greitens and MHDC Board Vote to Eliminate State Low Income Housing Tax Credits

The MHDC board met Friday and voted to eliminate the state credits. This will result in a significant loss of affordable housing in Missouri which is a tragedy. Reforms needed to be made in the program, but I don’t think Greitens is really interested in reform, simply grandstanding. Nevertheless, a big part of the reason the program was eliminated was the greed of the industry supported by the credits. MHDC never had an open application process with clear standards for judging and eliminating applications. The board made of high level political appointees was subject to legal and illegal graft. The program was run as a political fiefdom and returned far too little of the funds to actual low income recipients.

Still the program should not have been eliminated unless something better was around with which to replace it. As always low income people are the ones who suffer the most. Written by Paul Dribin

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More About Housing Tax Credits

Much is being written and discussed about the Governor’s decision to terminate Missouri State Affordable Housing Tax Credits. The loss of these credits will make affordable housing difficult to do and adversely affect a certain category of poor person. I am not in favor of eliminating these credits simply because there is really nothing else to work with in the affordable housing arena.

Nevertheless, the greed of some members of the affordable housing industry made this decision by the Governor inevitable. There are many developers, syndicators, attorneys, and consultants who have gotten rich off the program. Too much of a dollar of tax credits does not go for actual housing expenses. Many in the industry do not really care about poor people.

In addition, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program is both inefficient and ineffective. Inefficient for the reasons cited above plus a hugely complicated program. Ineffective because the program does not house poor people who need it the most. Tenants still must pay a $400-$600 monthly rent. Homeless people need not apply.

If the traditional public housing program was allowed the same per unit expenditures and site location it would have been a more efficient and effective housing program. Unfortunately, anything that smacks of public involvement is frowned upon these days. Written by Paul Dribin

The Beneficial Effects of Low Income Housing Tax Credits

I read some “scholarly” research today on the effect of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) on neighborhood stability. Some earlier research had suggested that LIHTC projects had a negative effect on low income communities. This study showed a very slight positive effect. This to me is faint praise. Affordable housing has been billed as transformative. Lives are clearly not being transformed by these programs, at best they are somewhat stabilized. Maybe that is all they can accomplish. They should not however be oversold. Written by Paul Dribin

State low Income Housing Tax Credits Again

Tony Messinger wrote a very powerful article today about the abuse of this tax credit program in Missouri. I have mixed emotions in response to his article. He is spot on that the program is inefficient and helps developers, lawyers, accountants, syndicator, bankers, and consultants get rich. Too little of the dollars generated by the program actually go to hard units of housing. I have been to many housing conferences in recent years where the subject could be soybeans, or pork futures. The participants do not care about poor people and affordable housing. I had unsuccessfully tried to get their interest in the work of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, but the group’s only concern had been tax credits.

On the other hand, the tax credit program is the only one there is for construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing. The program needs to be reformed, not eliminated. We also need to develop other tools for building affordable housing. Written by Paul Dribin

NIMBY in Webster Groves

Lutheran Senior Services a great senior housing provider had proposed constructing a 50 unit tax credit affordable housing project on their campus in Webster Groves, where I live, a suburb of St. Louis. The community once again reacted harshly, opposing the project for all the usual reasons, noise, density etc, even though it would be part of an existing campus and hardly noticed. In 2004 I was hired by Lutheran Senior to help develop a 202 low income senior project with the same results. People in our community attend church on a regular basis but don’t seem to get the message. Written by Paul Dribin

Segregation in Affordable Housing

The New York Times recently ran an article which was very thoroughly documented and described how Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects almost always were located in a racially segregated and economically depressed area. The city described was Houston but the facts could apply to almost any United States location. Projects located in depressed census tracts provide much worse outcomes for the residents than those that are not.(Although the sample size of projects located in higher income areas is very small). Here is a link to the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/02/us/federal-housing-assistance-urban-racial-divides.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share

Certainly in some situations building LIHTC projects in economically deprived areas might make sense if part of a major redevelopment project. Most often, the projects are located in those areas because of NIMBYISM or developer decision making.

I am not confident these situations can ever be changed. Higher income neighborhoods will almost never support the construction of low income project in their midst.

A solution to the problem would be something I frequently recommend; an income approach to poverty which provides everyone with a guaranteed minimum income which would be used to support housing as well as other critical programs. New housing would be constructed in response to the demand created by this source of income. FHA would beef up its’ mortgage development program providing a strong vehicle for the construction of new housing. Developers using this program would need to set aside 10% of their units for affordable tenants. Direct construction subsidies would still be available for special needs housing.

We need to overcome the inertia in housing policy caused by the greed of developers of the status quo.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits

Low income housing tax credits are the primary source of construction and rehabilitation for affordable housing projects. The program has been around since the eighties and is an effort to get private sector involvement in the affordable housing development business. The program uses the equity generated from the sale of tax credits to create low debt on affordable housing projects, thereby supporting lower rents. (This is a vast oversimplification but sufficient for this discussion.)

The program has accomplished much but has significant limitations. It is neither efficient or effective. Let me explain.

The program is not efficient for two reasons. First it is excessively complicated, involving arcane aspects of tax law, legal issues, accounting etc. It is an extremely difficult program for a newcomer to enter. Second, and related, the administrative costs are extremely high. Too much of the money does not go directly to housing but lines the pockets of developers, consultants, syndicators, accountants, attorneys, etc.

Second, the program is relatively ineffective. It does not house the low income people who need it the most. Someone must be able to pay a decent rent to afford the program. Homeless or very low income people cannot participate.

Politically this is not the best time to address the need for a new affordable housing program but the community needs it. The National Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a start but its resources are limited for now. We need a simpler more efficient and effective affordable housing program.

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