Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Angus King (I-Maine), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Thursday introduced the bipartisan S. 4181 LIFELINE Act (LIHTC Financing Enabling Long-term Investment in Neighborhood Excellence), to improve the use of state and local and Fiscal Recovery Plan Funds with the nation’s largest affordable housing funding mechanism, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

Leahy and the other senators point out that the nation is facing a dire shortage of affordable housing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the problem. An estimated 46 percent of renters in the United States are cost-burdened. Across the country, $8 billion of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds have been earmarked for housing. Under current law, the use of LIHTC with State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds is severely disincentivized. Due to the structure of the tax credit, federal grants used to fill gaps in LIHTC-funded construction are almost always provided as long-term loans. State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds must be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026 and therefore cannot be loaned. The LIFELINE Act would solve this problem by allowing states and localities to loan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to LIHTC projects.

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “Congress created State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to address the most pressing issues that we felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Vermont, and across the country, the pandemic has worsened the existing affordable housing crisis. We must act as soon as possible to make sure that these funds can be used with the country’s largest affordable housing program. In Vermont alone, hundreds of affordable housing units are on the line.”

Collins, who is the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said: “A lack of affordable housing in many communities in Maine and across the country is causing significant hardships for countless families. Low Income Housing Tax Credits can be an important part of the solution by leveraging private investments to significantly expand the supply of affordable rental units. Our bill would remove red tape created by the American Rescue Plan to allow state and local governments to tap into the potential of this tax credit and help more families find safe, affordable housing.”

Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said: “The lack of affordable housing was a national crisis before the pandemic, and this crisis made even clearer that millions of Americans are only a missed paycheck away from not being able to pay their rent or mortgage. This country needs more affordable housing, not less. We need to ensure the creation of new affordable housing by ensuring the continuation of projects in the pipeline.”

The LIFELINE Act was drafted in consultation with the Treasury Department, the authorizing committees for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, and housing and tax credit stakeholders. The effort is bipartisan and bicameral; Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and David Rouzer (R-NC-7) introduced the LIFELINE Act in the House of Representatives in March 2022 (H. 7078).

Ninety-seven local, state and national organizations have endorsed the LIFELINE Act:

Ability Housing, Inc.; Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition; Alabama Affordable Housing Association; American Institute of Architects; Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen; AURA; Beacon Communities; Beacon Hill Capital; BPC Action; BRIDGE Housing; CAHEC; California Council for Affordable Housing; CCIM Institute; Centrant Community Capital; Cinnaire; CohnReznick; Community Revitalization and Development Corporation; Council for Affordable and Rural Housing; Council of Development Finance Agencies; Council of Large Public Housing Authorities; Council of State Community Development Agencies; CREA, LLC; CSH; Dauby O’Connor & Zaleski, LLC; Denton Housing Authority; DreamKey Partners; Eden Housing; Enterprise; Evernorth; First Community Housing of San Jose; Greystone Affordable Development; Hawaii Housing Finance, LLC; HDC MidAtlantic; Holland & Knight LLP; Housing Advisory Group; HPN; Illinois Housing Council; Impact Development Partners LLC; Institute of Real Estate Management; Iowa Housing Partnership; KCG Companies; Kittle Property Group, Inc.; Kutak Rock LLP; Lincoln Avenue Capital; Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Low Income Investment Fund; Marble Cliff Capital; Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation; Merchants Capital; Merritt Community Capital Corporation; Midwest Housing Equity Group; Mills Property Development; Mountain Plains Equity Group; National Apartment Association; National Association for County Community and Economic Development; National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders; National Association of Counties; National Association of Home Builders; National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials; National Leased Housing Association; National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies; National Association of Realtors; National Association of State and Local Equity Funds; National Community Renaissance; National Council of State Housing Agencies; National Council of State Legislatures; National Equity Fund; National Housing & Rehabilitation Association; National Housing Conference; National Housing Trust; National League of Cities; National Low Income Housing Coalition; National Multifamily Housing Council; National Neighborworks Association; Nevada HAND, Inc; NewWest Community Capital; Nixon Peabody; Novogradac; Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing; PENNROSE, LLC; Pennsylvania Developers Council; Public Housing Authorities Directors Association; R4 Capital; RBC Community Investments, LLC; Roof Above; St. Louis Equity Fund; Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future; Stonehenge Capital; Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers; The Community Builders Inc.; THE MICHAELS ORGANIZATION; The NHP Foundation; U.S. Conference of Mayors; VCDC; Vermont Housing Conservation Board; Wallick Communities.