Filtering the Noise
It has been over 100 days since the election, and all of us have been subjected to the cacophony of political noise on everything from foreign policy, to regulation changes, to new healthcare plans, and finally tax reform. We have heard about skinny budgets, defense spending, and infrastructure. Noise is defined as a sound that is especially loud or unpleasant, or that causes disturbance. Everyone has a type of noise that grinds their spine, as they say, and in this case it is probably the amount of noise, not the type, that is driving everyone crazy.
If I had a patent on headphones that reduced political noise, I might be off on an island fishing, but unfortunately they don’t allow patents on metaphors. The fact is that, this spring, we actually have the “good noise” of great news for Affordable Housing coming out of Washington DC. Do we have challenges? Yes, there are plenty of challenges for Affordable Housing, but until the glass tips over, it is always half full.
The first piece of good news (better than a skinny budgets or government shutdown) is that we have been given some time, another 100 days or so, to push for increased appropriated housing funds in the next budget cycle starting October 1. The Senate passed (79-18) a more than $1 trillion spending bill on May 4 to fund the federal government through September, preventing a government shutdown ahead of the May 5 deadline. Now the clock is ticking for action on that front, and I know the housing associations involved in the Project Based Rental Assistance programs are galvanizing their stakeholders.
We also have important news on the Housing Credit and Bonds with the introduction of a House and Senate Bill to increase the 9% credit cap and fix the bond rate at 4%. Our House champions Rep. Pat Tiberi and Rep. Richard Neal introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (HR 1661) on March 21, which is companion legislation to S. 548, introduced earlier in March by Senator Maria Cantwell and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch. Whether we have comprehensive tax reform or just tax cuts, there will be a need for a tax vehicle to deal with various expired extender provisions, especially in renewables, by year end. What can you do? Ask your House and Senate members to co-sponsor as soon as possible.
Speaking of changes to the code, the even better news about the Housing Credit and Bonds is within the framework of tax reform. While the current infighting over tax cuts vs. tax reform and the House plan vs. the Trump plan are ongoing, we are at the table with the Ways and Means Committee and the Joint Committee on taxation, discussing how to maintain production should the tax code change. That is an invitation that many industries would relish, and we certainly appreciate the vast support for our program by the Committee on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to the day when the 4% bond credit is really a flat 4%.
Finally, I cannot begin to tell you how many folks worked relentlessly to get members of Congress out to see Affordable Housing properties across the country this spring. There has been considerable activity by housing sponsors to make this happen, and we always get positive results. Seeing is believing; this is the effort, the secret sauce that gives Affordable Housing clout in DC, and since the election we have continued to educate new Members of Congress.
We’re going to have some challenges in deciding how to filter all the noise out there. I like to listen to the good stuff. As Cass Elliott said, “If you truly dig what you are doing, if you lay it out that way, nobody can respond. That’s what rock and roll is; it’s relentless.” That’s good noise.
Bob Moss is a CohnReznick Principal and National Director of Governmental Affairs. Bob leads the Firm’s federal and state government relations efforts, particularly in the area of affordable housing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-648-1406. For more legislative insight from Bob, visit our Capitol Connection webpage.
This has been prepared for information purposes and general guidance only and does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and CohnReznick LLP, its members, employees and agents accept no liability, and disclaim all responsibility, for the consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.