2016 Housing Report Card lessons from the past | City of Ideas

Posted 12/08/2016 by Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO, The Boston Foundation

In Massachusetts, the program works by allowing for-profit and nonprofit developers of affordable rental housing properties to apply to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for tax credits. If successful, these developers recruit investors for the projects in question. Often investors' money is pooled into equity funds for affordable housing developments. Further, these investors can receive a stream of tax credits for backing such developments.

Sadly, affordable housing availability was a problem three decades ago. And with Ronald Reagan presiding over a federal withdrawal from the cities and affordable housing production, 1986 did not seem a very auspicious time to be proposing new housing programs. But a group of us thought that if we went for a tax credit instead of an appropriation we might have a chance. And low and behold we pulled it off. Over 30 years it has led to the creation of nearly three million affordable homes for low income Americans!

It was a pleasure to mark the occasion and celebrate the impact, success and longevity of the program with some of the great champions of this effort, including George Mitchell, the Senator from Maine and Senate Majority Leader, and Congressman Charles Rangel, of Harlem, a very prominent figure on the Ways and Means Committee in that period. But it also prompted me to worry about the future of the program and its impact on much needed affordable housing in Greater Boston.

This should be of particular concern, as President-elect Trump has promised that there will be a tax bill in the first year of his Presidency. And its going to be very important for people to defend those programs that have proven their effectiveness, like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Many Bostonians were shocked and upset by the results of the recent election, but this is a time for renewed engagement. Good policies that benefit communities will pass the test of time, and celebrating their success is not just a pleasant trip down memory lane for those of us there at the beginning, but also a call to action for those of us concerned about providing affordable housing for the next 30 years and beyond.

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