Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Mark P. Keightley
Specialist in Economics
The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program is one of the federal government’s primary policy tools for encouraging the development and rehabilitation of affordable rental housing. These non-refundable federal housing tax credits are awarded to developers of qualified rental projects via a competitive application process administered by state housing finance authorities. Developers typically sell their tax credits to outside investors in exchange for equity. Selling the tax credits reduces the debt developers would otherwise have to incur and the equity they would otherwise have to contribute. With lower financing costs, tax credit properties can potentially offer lower, more affordable rents. The LIHTC is estimated to cost the government an average of nearly $6 billion annually.
The LIHTC program was originally designed to provide a 30% subsidy for rehabilitated rental housing, and a 70% subsidy for newly constructed rental housing. To ensure that the 30% or 70% subsidies were achieved, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designed a formula for determining the LIHTC rate. The formula depends in part on current market interest rates that fluctuate over time. These fluctuations have also caused the LIHTC rate to change over time. Developers and investors have expressed concern over the uncertainty that the variable LIHTC rate changes introduce into the program.
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-289) temporarily changed the credit rate formula used for new construction. The act effectively placed a floor equal to 9% on the new construction tax credit rate. The 9% credit rate floor only applies to new construction placed in service before December 31, 2013. The tax credit rate (known as the 4% credit) that is applied to rehabilitation construction remained unaltered by the act. Most recently, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-240) extended the 9% floor for credit allocations made before January 1, 2014.
Date of Report: February 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: RS22389
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