Holistic Affordable Housing & Healthcare – A New Team in DC?

    Since 2013, the Affordable Housing industry has actively worked to get members of Congress out to grand openings across the country for projects financed by Housing Credits. That effort is still underway and, thanks to advice from former Ways and Means Chairman David Camp, we have continued this grassroots tour state by state.  

    On January 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing for members to listen to testimony from Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA), President-elect Trump’s nominee to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Price was born in Lansing, Michigan and, after obtaining a medical degree from the University of Michigan, completed his residence at Emory University in Atlanta where he decided to settle down. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004. As a Republican conservative from Georgia’s 6th District, Dr. Price was obviously skeptical when it came to government programs. However, as a medical professional he became aware of the fact that affordable housing and healthcare go hand in hand in promoting the well-being of all Americans. 

    Interestingly, Dr. Price was one of those skeptics of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit a few years ago. That is, until he visited the grand opening of Chamblee Senior Residences (thank you, Mercy Housing) in his district in Georgia. Later, in his remarks as the keynote speaker at the 2014 Georgia Affordable Housing Coalition conference, Dr. Price spoke about the important connection he had made between healthcare and quality affordable housing. At that grand opening, it became clear to him that the Housing Credit was a high performing public/private partnership.

    On January 12, another leader who was born in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Ben Carson, completed a two-hour plus hearing as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Dr. Carson testified on the connection between housing and health during his confirmation hearing, arguing in his opening statement that his background as a medical professional prepares him for the top HUD post. He noted that "good health has a lot to do with a good environment" and that substandard living conditions can result in health problems. 

    Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) led off the hearing for Dr. Carson stating, “While the Housing Tax Credit is under Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, it’s very important to us in the U.S. housing market. It provides essential capital to underserved communities and provides key financing for small and rural affordable housing developments.” Dr. Carson was in agreement, stating that the Housing Credit was an excellent example of public/private partnership. 

    There may be a new team in DC promoting the Housing Credit (and, yes, there is a Michigan connection). Clearly, as medical professionals Dr. Price and Dr. Carson both know that healthcare and affordable housing can be accomplished with the Housing Credit program, our nation’s most successful public/private partnership program. I hope they can bring another medical professional, Dr. David Shulkin, into the conversation as he prepares to lead the V.A. That would be the holistic approach we need in solving our issues. 

    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.

    Bob can be reached at bob.moss@cohnreznick.com or 617-648-1406. For more legislative insight from Bob, visit our Capitol Connection webpage.