Let’s Get Local

3 min read

It’s the silly season again! Both the Republican and Democratic parties have now held their first presidential debates, and, as promised, they have been very entertaining. Now that the 2016 presidential campaign is really picking up steam and the bizarre Game of Thrones continues to play out in the US House of Representatives (outcome very uncertain at the time that I am writing this month’s column), I think we can safely predict that Congress is unlikely to change course and start passing reams of legislation this political season. This is particularly troubling for us affordable housers since there is still a great deal of “must pass” legislation on the docket this fall that impacts our day-to-day business. This includes government funding for the year (which expires this December), tax extenders and the now ritual human sacrifice that is the debt limit debate.

And please forget about those sunnier times when I wrote about the semi-positive outlook for much needed legislation to reform the GSEs, Public Housing Administration and Section 8. While the debate continues on all these measures and in some cases incremental steps are even being taken, if you are a “political thrill seeker” looking for some of that “sweet, sweet legislative action” take your eyes off the Congress this fall and look to your state legislature.

Now more than ever it is critically important that state legislatures play a leadership role supporting affordable housing and tax credit development. With federal funding for housing likely to stay flat or even decline in the short-term, legislatures have an opportunity, and I believe an obligation, to expand, improve and/or enact new resources to fill the gap.

In many state capitols, that debate is now happening and as practitioners in the affordable housing space we must make our case. I cut my teeth in politics as a junior staffer in the New York State Assembly and later did advocacy work in more than a dozen legislatures around the country. In this work, I learned that most state legislators and their staff (if they have them) are actually surprisingly accessible and often very responsive. I can remember calling the number listed as the legislative “office” of a committee chair in New Hampshire and was surprised when the chairman answered the call personally….on his cell phone…from the back of his tractor!

If you care about predictable and fair property taxes, as well as state historic, affordable and/or new markets tax credits or funding for state affordable housing trust funds, take some time this fall to introduce yourself to your state legislator and get active in your state affordable housing or historic preservation developers association or participate in lobby day. Even more so than with the congressional advocacy, we need your voice and your local leadership to ensure affordable housing and community development programs get the resources they need in the coming year.

For information about contacting your state legislators, please visit: