The U.S. House and Senate began negotiating a final version of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” with profound implications for how our country creates and preserves homes affordable to families, veterans, seniors and people with special needs. As is, the House tax reform bill would decimate affordable housing by eliminating private activity bonds, including multifamily housing bonds — reducing production by nearly 66 percent, costing communities nearly one million homes and local construction jobs over the next decade including nearly 16,000 homes in Louisiana.

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Thankfully, the Senate has retained them in its version — although both the House and Senate versions still contain other provisions harmful to affordable housing. At a time when the demand for affordable housing far exceeds supply, when wages have not kept up with rising housing costs, and when 167,000 households in Louisiana spend more than half of their incomes on rent, we cannot afford to lose the resources necessary to create and preserve affordable homes. As Congress negotiates a final bill, elected leaders in Washington must fight for the resources that make affordable housing possible by taking the following steps. First, preserve multifamily housing bonds. While both bills retain the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Louisiana’s and America’s main tool for creating and preserving affordable homes, the House bill eliminates multifamily housing bonds, which finance roughly half of all Housing Credit developments.

They are a critical complement to the Housing Credit, which was essential for rebuilding affordable housing after Hurricane Katrina and which will be essential following this years’ devastating hurricane season. The Housing Credit and multifamily housing bonds work in tandem, allowing states to partner with private developers and nonprofits to strengthen their communities through housing for working families. Losing either one of these tools would be a devastating blow to communities across Louisiana and the country.

Second, retain New Markets Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits. NMTC and HTC are critical for job creation and the preservation of historic buildings in struggling neighborhoods. Take, for example, the Centennial Place and Fresh Food Factor on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans. This adaptive redevelopment of three long-vacant industrial buildings contributed to the revitalization of the Mississippi River waterfront. Centennial Place includes 52 mixed-income homes, 27 of which are affordable to families earning up to 80 percent of area median income. Its neighbor, Fresh Food Factor is a commercial kitchen that prepares fresh and healthy meals for thousands of school children each day while offering job training for adults to pursue culinary careers.

The transformation of these historic buildings into community assets would not have been possible without NMTC and HTC. As Congress negotiates its final version of the tax bill, members must preserve the Housing Credit, multifamily Housing Bonds, New Markets Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits. Eliminating these programs would be devastating for Louisiana’s and our nation’s low-income families, veterans, seniors and people with special needs who depend on them to create homes that they can afford while strengthening their communities.

Michelle Whetten

Enterprise Community Partners

New Orleans