With tax reform a priority issue for both the Administration and Congress, we wanted to update you on recent Housing Advisory Group activities in Washington, D.C.
We would like to begin by again encouraging you to not put too much stock in the daily reports on the status of tax reform. This is a process and from a historical perspective the process has yet to hit its stride. At this stage, the House and the Senate are not on the same page and the Administration is not yet engaged in a way that may lead to actual legislative agreements on reform. So, be patient, continue the work you are doing to educate members on the importance of affordable housing programs — including the LIHTC. It is these efforts that have laid the groundwork for the support the LIHTC has with policymakers which was evident in the meetings we outline below.
On February 22, a small group of industry advocates, including Housing Advisory Group representatives, met with key Administration officials from the National Economic Council and the White House Domestic Policy Council. The purpose of the White House meeting was to discuss the LIHTC and tax reform, and to encourage the Administration to support the credit and bond programs. HAG Executive Director David Gasson, Board Member Mike Novogradac and Counsel Barbara Pate reported that the meeting was very positive and productive. While no commitments were made, it is clear that there is a good understanding on the part of the White House policy advisors regarding the LIHTC program and its bipartisan support in Congress.
Of particular interest to the Administration is how the credit could fit into a community revitalization plan. We have an excellent story to tell on that aspect and discussed both direct and indirect benefits that the LIHTC delivers. We also had an opportunity to point out the importance of the credit and housing bonds in providing affordable housing in rural areas. We were very encouraged by the reception we received and the interest in the credit and proposed enhancements to it.
We also had an opportunity this month to spend time on the Hill with our key champions. On February 14, David Gasson and Barbara Pate met with the key tax advisor to Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), our House LIHTC champion, to discuss the expected introduction of legislation that will include most of the enhancements in the Cantwell-Hatch bill from last Congress. The Tiberi bill will not include the increased allocation. Following that visit, David and Barbara met with the Democratic Chief of Staff for the House Ways and Means Committee, the top advisor to Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA). Rep. Neal has been our long-standing Democratic LIHTC champion. On February 22, David and Barbara met with Rep. Neal’s Ways and Means Committee Chief Tax Counsel.
In addition, David and Barbara met with staffs of Reps. David Schweikert (R-AZ) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), new members of the Ways and Means Committee, to bring them up to speed on the industry’s ongoing work with the Committee. Both meetings were very positive, and we are working to arrange visits for Reps. Schweikert and Curbelo to see properties in their districts. If you have a property in either one of these districts and would like to work with us on arranging a visit please let us know.
On a separate track, HAG Chairman Bob Moss recently visited with both House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Speaker Ryan and Chairman Brady are working hard to move tax reform through the House and both remain committed to doing so before the August break. This is an ambitious schedule, particularly in light of concerns that have been raised over some elements of the plan. Further complicating the timeline is the need to address funding for the government and raising the debt limit. Chairman Brady and Speaker Ryan also plan to move Obamacare legislation prior to consideration of tax reform.
On the Senate side, on February 22, David and Barbara met with Finance Committee majority staff to discuss both tax reform and the reintroduction of the LIHTC expansion bill authored by our champions Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The Senators are finalizing details and hope to have the bill introduced in the next few weeks. The legislation will include the increase in allocation as well as the other enhancements that were in the bill introduced in the last Congress. We have again joined the ACTION Campaign on a letter of support for the bill, urging Congress to address the severe shortage of affordable rental housing by expanding and strengthening the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Over 2000 businesses and organizations signed a similar letter last year, including many of you. A robust list of supporters is very helpful in presenting our case to Congress, and we are pleased to see the number grow. If you signed the previous letter there is no need to act as you will be included in this latest version. If you did not sign-on to the previous letter please do so now by clicking here and following the directions to include your organization.
Finally, we continue to get very good comments from Members of Congress who have visited properties in their districts and states, and we encourage you to arrange visits with your elected officials who have not had an opportunity to stop by in the past. It makes a difference for them to see the properties and hear from the families who live there. This will be a critical factor in getting their commitment to retain and improve the credit.