June 28, 2016

In Case You Missed It: A Look at Recent National Housing Policy News

JCHS Releases 2016 State of the Nation's Housing Report 

Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) released The State of the Nation's Housing 2016, its latest annual report on U.S. housing trends. While the report finds that the housing market continues to recover post-crisis, it highlights serious challenges, including all-time high renter cost-burdens, growing concentrations of poverty, falling homeownership rates, and tight mortgage credit. JCHS cites state efforts, including those by state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs), to address these challenges but concludes that increased federal investment in affordable housing is also necessary. According to the report, the overall housing market recovery has been largely driven by increased demand in the rental market. Over 36 percent of U.S. households chose to rent in 2015—the highest portion since the 1960s. Rental demand is expected to remain strong as millennials form new households and homeownership rates drop.

Bipartisan Housing Assistance Reform Bill Introduced in Senate 

Chairman Tim Scott (R-SC) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development introduced S. 3083, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act (HOTMA), to streamline and reform several federal housing assistance programs. This legislation is essentially identical to legislation the House of Representatives passed unanimously in February, H.R. 3700, on which NCSHA has previously reported.  HOTMA would make various modifications to rental housing assistance programs, including streamlining Housing Choice Voucher program inspections, simplifying the requirements for project basing vouchers, and providing public housing agencies (PHAs) greater flexibility to transfer funding between their operating and capital funds. It would also require PHAs to either begin charging fair market rent or terminate public housing assistance for households who were income-qualified at move in, but whose incomes have increased to more than 120 percent of AMI for two consecutive years.

House Republicans Unveil Tax Reform Blueprint 

The House Republican Tax Reform Task Force, chaired by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), released its blueprint for tax reform, A Better Way: A Pro-Growth Tax Code for All Americans. The blueprint is silent on both the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and tax-exempt bonds, including Housing Bonds, but declares that it would "generally eliminate special-interest deductions and credits in favor of providing lower tax rates for all businesses and eliminating taxes on business investment." The only business credit the blueprint specifically calls for is a credit to encourage research and development (R&D) that is similar to the current R&D credit.  According to the blueprint, House Republican goals in tax reform are to fuel job creation and deliver opportunity for all Americans, simplify the tax code by making it more fair and less burdensome, and transform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by making it more focused on consumer service. It maintains that the current tax code imposes burdensome paperwork and compliance costs; picks winners and losers by encouraging investment decisions based on tax savings instead of innovation; penalizes savings and investment; encourages businesses to move overseas; enables the IRS, which it describes as an example of executive branch overreach, blatant misconduct, and government waste; and stifles economic growth.

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