2017 Legislative and Regulatory Policy Priorities
KEY NACCED POLICY PRIORITIES
Below is a summary and description of federal community, economic, and housing development programs of key concern to counties and NACCED's official 2017 policy recommendations.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT (CDBG) PROGRAM
Local governments use CDBG funds for critical community development activities including, infrastructure improvements such as roads, water and sewer systems; expanding homeownership opportunities; eliminating slum and blight; employment training; business and job creation; transportation services; services at libraries, community centers, adult day care and child and after school care facilities; homeless housing assistance; and crime awareness programs. According to HUD, every $1 million in CDBG funding supports nearly 26 jobs and since 2005 CDBG program resources have created over 300,000 jobs. This important infrastructure and community development program has been a catalyst for economic growth and has helped local officials leverage funds for community needs. CDBG allocation continues to decline, however, at a time when the nation’s infrastructure is ailing and is in dire need of improvements. It is more important now than ever to increase CDBG funding to give communities the ability to address their infrastructure and economic development needs at the local level.
A total of $3 billion was appropriated for CDBG in FY2016—level with previous year’s funding. Despite the success of this program, CDBG funding has declined by 49% since 20001, which has hampered local government ability to implement the community-driven development initiatives needed to create jobs, and improve essential infrastructure. NACCED supports funding CDBG at $3.3 billion for FY2018 and preserving it as a flexible and locally-driven community development resource.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 requires HUD grantees to promote fair housing and equal opportunity. The law not only prohibits discrimination it also directs HUD program participants take significant actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, achieve truly balanced and integrated living patterns, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.
In July 2015, HUD published its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Final Rule. The rule was developed in response to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and stakeholders that HUD enhance its fair housing planning obligations. Prior to this rule, HUD directed participants to affirmatively further fair housing by undertaking an analysis of impediments (AI) that was generally not submitted to or reviewed by HUD. This approach required program participants, based on general guidance from HUD, to identify impediments to fair housing choice within their jurisdiction, plan, and take appropriate actions to overcome the effects of any impediments, and maintain records of such efforts.
HUD’s AFFH rule requires grantees to now analyze their local/regional fair housing landscape and establish fair housing priorities and goals through the completion of a new Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) that replaces the AI. Specific HUD grantees will be required to complete the AFH planning process. The AFH planning process is intended to help communities analyze challenges to fair housing choice and establish their own goals and priorities to address the fair housing barriers in their community.
Under the AFFH regulation, HUD grantees that complete a Consolidated Plan for HUD’s Community Planning and Development (CPD) block grant programs—such as CDBG, HOME and Emergency Solution grants— as well as Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) will complete an AFH to accompany their 3-5 Year Consolidated Plan or 5-Year PHA Plan. They may also work together with other grantees and PHAs to submit a joint AFH. Members of the community will also have an opportunity to provide input for the Assessment of Fair Housing. According to HUD estimates, the compliance cost to program participants will total $25 million annually and 200 hours of staff time to complete the AFH. No AFH will be due prior to October 4, 2016.
NACCED urges Congress and HUD to provide dedicated resources to enhance the ability of local governments to comply with the HUD AFFH Final Rule and complete the required AFH planning process, including but not limited to: increased flexibility to utilize Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds beyond existing statutory and regulatory caps for fair housing planning and program implementation; and dedicated funds for local governments to offset the increased costs associated with undergoing the mandated AFH planning process. HUD is urged to provide enhanced technical assistance to local governments to aid them in developing comprehensive AFHs, such as best practice guides, toolkits and sample agreements for regional or multi-jurisdictional collaboration, fair housing program implementation guidance, and specialized assistance for public housing authorities.
HOME INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (HOME) PROGRAM
For counties across the nation, the HOME program is vital to increasing home ownership and expanding the availability of affordable rental housing. Since 1990, over one million units of housing have been produced with HOME funds. HUD indicates that each dollar of HOME funding leverages an additional $4 in other public and private funding. Every $1 billion in HOME funding creates or preserves more than 17,000 jobs.
According to HUD, an estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. It is imperative that the HOME program is strengthened and expanded to help American families access affordable housing.
For FY2016, HOME was provided with $950 million in funding, an increase of $50 million above previous year’s appropriations. However, the program has experienced a nearly 50 percent decline in funding since 2010, which has hindered the ability of state and local governments to produce and sustain affordable housing. In addition, the program is beginning to suffer from record levels of funding deobligations, roughly $28 million in FY2015. NACCED supports total funding of $1.2 billion for the HOME program for FY2018, which will help to restore the ability of local governments to support affordable housing activities and leverage other public and private resources. In addition, NACCED supports the development of technical assistance resource and programs that would reduce the level of funding deobligations.
HOUSING FINANCE REFORM AND DUTY TO SERVE
In 2008, as a result of deterioration in the housing market and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s inability to raise new capital, Congress and the administration—through enactment of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA; P.L. 110-289)—placed the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) into conservatorship under the control of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). During the 113th, Congress, policymakers began developing proposals to establish a new secondary market mechanism and wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, none of these measures received consideration by the full House or Senate.
In 2017, Congress and the Administration will continue discussions over the need to reevaluate the ongoing status of the GSEs. However, many outstanding details must be agreed to by Congress and the White House before any action would be approved modifying or eliminating the GSEs.
Related to this, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released a final rule implementing Duty to Serve (DTS) provisions of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008, in December 2016. The provisions require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to serve three specified underserved markets: manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural markets.
The rule requires the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) to adopt plans that improve “the distribution and availability of mortgage financing in a safe and sound manner for residential properties that serve very low-, low-, and moderate-income families” in the three underserved markets. DTS credit will be conveyed for eligible GSE activities that facilitate a secondary market the specified underserved markets. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be required to submit to FHFA an Underserved Markets Plan covering a three-year period that describes the activities and objectives it will undertake to meet its Duty to Serve.
Under the final rule, the Enterprises are encouraged to support the following activities in their Underserved Market plans:
Manufactured Housing: Support manufactured homes titled as real property, manufactured homes titled as personal property, and blanket loans for certain categories of manufactured communities.
Affordable Housing Preservation: support the preservation of affordable rental housing and affordable homeownership opportunities including activities under the programs specified in the Safety and Soundness Act, supporting small multifamily rental properties, energy efficiency improvements on multifamily rental and single-family first-lien properties, shared equity homeownership programs, purchase or rehabilitation of certain distressed properties, and activities under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
Rural Housing: support housing in high-needs rural regions and for high-needs rural populations, financing of housing by small rural financial institutions, and activities related to small multifamily rental properties in rural areas.
NACCED will work to ensure the needs of local HFAs and the role they play in financing affordable housing are fully served. This includes ensuring that any successor entity to the GSEs acts as a viable secondary market outlet for affordable single- and multi-family housing finance; provides credit enhancement, insurance programs; and liquidity support for local HFA programs. NACCED will work with FHFA and GSEs to strengthen and expand local HFA-GSE collaborations and partnerships, including as part of the GSEs Duty to Serve requirements.
HOUSING TRUST FUND
In 2015, FHFA announced it was lifting the suspension on GSE-required payments to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and Capital Magnet Fund (CMF). The two programs administered by HUD, are authorized as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA; P.L. 110-289) to fund affordable housing activities. However, shortly after HERA’s enactment FHFA suspended the mandatory payments to the Funds.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are assessed 4.2 basis points (.042 percent) on new business purchases. These fees are directed to the HTF and CMF—65 percent to the HTF and 35 percent to the CMF. FHFA ordered the GSEs to begin setting aside these funds beginning in January 2015 for distribution in 2016. Congressional Republicans have expressed opposition to the programs and there are questions as to whether the programs will continue with the new Administration.
States and state-designated entities are eligible grantees for the HTF. States are required to submit an allocation plan to HUD, which must describe intended distribution methodology and provide the opportunity for public feedback. States may distribute funds through sub-grantees. Eligible sub-grantees include state agencies or units of general local government that have filed an approved consolidated plan with HUD. However, there is no requirement that funds be sub-allocated locally.
HTF funds may be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities. All HTF-assisted units will be required to have a minimum affordability period of 30 years. Eligible activities and expenses include: real property acquisition; site improvements and development hard costs; related soft costs; demolition; financing costs; relocation expenses; operating cost assistance for rental housing (not more than 20 percent of each annual grant); and, “reasonable” administrative and planning costs.
The HTF statute requires that 75 percent of funds for rental housing must benefit extremely low-income households (30 percent of AMI) or households with incomes below the federal poverty line. All funds must benefit very low-income households (50 percent of AMI).
In 2017, NACCED will urge HUD and Congress to ensure resources continue to be provided directly to local jurisdictions, either through a minimum set-aside, formula sub-allocation, or alternative regulatory/statutory direction.
LOW-INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT (LIHTC)
Since it was established in 1986, the Housing Credit has financed over 2.8 million homes, making rent affordable for roughly 6.5 million low-income families. It has also supported more than 3 million jobs while bringing $100 billion in private investment into communities throughout the U.S.
Signed into law in December 2015, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act provided permanent reauthorization for the minimum 9% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit rate for new construction and substantial rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the legislation did not include a permanent 4% credit rate floor for acquisition and bond-financed projects. The minimum 9% LIHTC rate makes LIHTC development more predictable, strengthening the program.
The Trump administration’s proposed corporate tax rate drop will likely have significant effects on LIHTC and other tax credit programs. This plan, released in the fall of 2016, proposes to drop the corporate tax rate to 15% from 35%, while House Republicans have proposed a drop to 20%. In either case, a significant drop in the corporate tax rate would likely make investment in LIHTC less appealing. When an investor purchases tax credits from a developer under the LIHTC program, the investor can use those credits to lower their annual federal tax bill. If an investor has a lower tax bill, they will not be willing to pay as much for these tax credits. Developers will need to sell more credits in order to gain the equity needed for their low income housing projects. Therefore, in order to maintain the production of affordable housing with the LIHTC program under a corporate tax rate cut, more tax credits will need to be allocated.
As affordable housing becomes more difficult to access and rents continue to increase, the creation of more affordable housing units is necessary. With the affordable housing crisis in combination with proposed corporate tax rate cuts, it is critical now more than ever for Congress provide the tools and funding necessary to increase the nation’s affordable housing stock. The LIHTC program has been one of the most successful tools for rental housing production, but the current authority available is not enough to adequately respond to affordable housing needs and increasing demands on the program.
In 2017, NACCED will urge Congress to increase the allocation of LIHTC which will allow the program to create and preserve more affordable homes in the United States. Furthermore, NACCED supports a permanent 4% credit rate floor for acquisition and bond-financed projects that will empower states to allocate more credit equity to properties, provide more efficiency to program administration, and offer more predictability to the program.
PRIVATE ACTIVITY BONDS (PABs)/MUNICIPAL BONDS
Past tax reform and budget proposals put forth by Congress have pursued elimination of Private Activity Bonds (PABs), as well as capping the value of the deduction on interest earned on municipal bonds. The Administration’s budget requests (including in FY 2017) have sought to cap the value of the exemption at 28 percent.
However, the issue of broad-based individual and/or corporate tax reform could gain prominence in 2017 as Congress works with a new Administration. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) have both expressed a desire to move forward on tax reform and proposals already exist from past tax reform efforts over the past several years.
In 2017, NACCED will continue its efforts to preserve all tax-exempt housing bonds. Tax exempt housing bonds are critical tools in helping counties expand affordable single- and multi-family housing opportunities.