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By allocating renters’ credits to developments in neighborhoods where infrastructure investments are planned, states could ensure that working-poor families and seniors and people with disabilities are not excluded from those investments’ benefits.
We discuss below the following seven key features of the proposed credit: Under the proposed credit, states would receive authority to allocate renters’ credits up to a cap set by a federal formula.
It could also help address an imbalance in current federal housing policy: counting tax benefits, federal housing assistance overwhelmingly goes to high-income homeowners, even though low-income renters have the most acute housing needs.
More than 11 million renter households, most with incomes below the poverty line, pay more than half their income for housing.
These families often must shift resources from basic needs like food or clothing to pay the rent, and are more likely than other families to experience eviction and even homelessness — problems that can adversely affect children’s development and adults’ ability to find and keep a job.
A project-based renters’ credit would help poor families afford a home by providing states with credits that they would allocate to rental housing owners and developers for use in particular developments.
Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families), Center for American Progress, Enterprise Community Partners, Center for Global Policy Solutions, and Mortgage Bankers Association have each highlighted versions of a renters’ credit as a promising strategy to address poverty, homelessness, and high rent burdens.This approach would be similar to that used for existing state-administered housing tax expenditures, including LIHTC and three programs that states can support through allocations of federal tax-exempt bond authority: private activity bonds for affordable rental housing; Mortgage Revenue Bonds, which subsidize mortgages for eligible households; and Mortgage Credit Certificates, which provide a tax credit for a percentage of a household’s mortgage interest.A capped renters’ credit would make it possible to provide a substantial per-household credit at a more moderate cost than providing an uncapped credit covering all eligible households.Tight multi-year caps on non-defense discretionary appropriations, the budget category that includes rental assistance programs, will make it difficult to expand those programs in the coming years.But a new “project-based” renters’ tax credit could help a substantial number of the lowest-income renters — including low-wage workers and poor seniors and people with disabilities — afford decent, stable housing.