New Developments, Thanksgiving & The Midterms

3 min read

On this recent Thanksgiving, I hope our elected officials—both present and future—took the opportunity to remember the spirit of collaboration between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Wampanoags on that first Thanksgiving. Now that the midterms are behind us, it would be wise to also leave the storm of divisive political discourse in advertisements, debates and television coverage behind, because there is still a lot of work to be done both before and after the new Congress is seated.

I am hopeful that Congress will use the remaining days of the “Lame Duck” session to enact meaningful improvements to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit and extend or, better still make permanent, the New Markets Tax Credit. Should a tax vehicle present itself, it is likely we will need your help, perhaps on a moment’s notice, to make calls and send emails and assist us in mobilizing the final support we need to get to the finish line.

While there are many motivated parties that want to make a tax deal before the conclusion of this Congress, as well as strong support for our community development programs, there is also some potential conflict that could send the whole process off the rails. With the December 7 end of the current continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government approaching and a potential showdown between Congress and the president on the border wall looming, a budget fight and government shutdown could throw a significant wrench in the works.

Regardless of what happens legislatively in December, we will face the challenge of educating the new arrivals in January. There will be more than 80 new Representatives in the House and at least four new Senators. The vast majority of them will need to be informed about the value of the LIHTC, HTC and NMTC. Neither Republican lead sponsor of SB 548 and HR 1661—Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)—will be returning to Congress in January. In fact, more than 40 co-sponsors of HR 1661/SB 548 were either defeated or are retiring.

At the same time, some of the strongest supporters of the LIHTC and other community development programs will be in positions of great influence. This includes Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the presumptive Speaker of the House; Representative Richard Neal (D-MA), the likely chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee; and the indominable Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the staunchest advocate for expanding affordable housing.

Housing and community development seems poised to be a prominent issue in the national dialogue in 2018 as evidenced at a local level, where affordable housing won on the ballot in communities from coast to coast. This included affordable housing bond measures to the tune of $652.8 million, $250 million and $50 million in Portland, OR; Austin, TX and Charlotte, NC, respectively. Several prominent new members of Congress actively ran on housing affordability as an issue and with the increasing coverage of affordable housing in the mainstream media, perhaps the issue will even take center stage in the next presidential election.

This past Thanksgiving there was much to be thankful for. We survived tax reform and even modestly expanded the LIHTC. Even more importantly, we built and operated a lot of quality affordable housing for the most vulnerable members of our society. As you will read in this issue, the already popular new Opportunity Zone program can work innovatively alongside tax credits to garner increased support for distressed neighborhoods.

Our job for next year? Redouble our efforts to educate the new class of representatives and senators and recruit new champions.

Happy holidays.

Thom joined National Housing & Rehabilitation Association (NH&RA) in 2004 and currently serves as its as Executive Vice-President and Executive Director. NH&RA is a national trade association and peer-network for affordable housing and tax credit developers and related professionals including: investors, lenders, public agencies and professional advisers. Thom directs the association’s day-to-day operations including legislative and regulatory advocacy, committee activities, conferences and events, publications, financial management and strategic planning. Thom also serves as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Developers Council, a state-wide trade association for affordable housing developers and professionals active in Tennessee. In 2013 he spearheaded the launch of NH&RA's Preservation through Energy Efficiency Project, a major educational initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Thom also serves on the Board of Directors for International Center for Appropriate & Sustainable Technology (iCAST) as well as the Advisory Board for its ResourceSmart program, a turn-key, cost-effective, green rehab provider for multifamily affordable and market-rate housing communities and nonprofit facilities. Thom is a frequent speaker at affordable housing, sustainable development and tax credit industry events and has been published in a variety of industry journals including Tax Credit Advisor, Independent Banker, and the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credit Housing. Thom also serves as the Associate Publisher of Tax Credit Advisor, a monthly magazine for tax credit and affordable housing professionals and is an Executive Vice-President at Dworbell Inc., a boutique association management and communications firm in Washington, DC. Thom was previously employed at a national lobbying firm focusing on financial services and technology issues. Prior to moving to Washington, Thom worked in media relations in the New York State Assembly and as a research assistant for New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen. Thom graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University with a double major in Political Science and History.