PRESS RELEASE: Supervisor Farrell to Introduce Legislation Calling for Changes in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program

SAN FRANCISCO — At today’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Mark Farrell will introduce legislation urging Congress to pass the Housing for Homeless Students Act — Senate Bill 1412 — that would change the current federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program to allow the formerly homeless to attend school full-time and not lose their eligibility to remain housed in LIHTC funded housing.

“It’s beyond belief that the formerly homeless have to choose between a full-time education, or keeping a roof over their head,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “We must all support common sense changes that seek to give the formerly homeless a leg-up, especially if they want to better their lives by attaining an education.”

The LIHTC provides a reduction in tax liability for developers that build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing units. For years, the LIHTC has been used to build, or subsidize properties, intended to house individuals, youth, and families who experience homelessness. Currently, residents in housing funded by the LIHTC cannot be full-time students unless they meet certain exceptions, and it is referred to as the “student rule.”

The intent of the so called “student rule” is to prohibit LIHTC funds from being used to construct dormitories and to prevent college students, who often have temporarily low incomes, from utilizing resources meant for individuals and families with more serious longer-term housing needs. Unfortunately, the “student rule” provides no exception for homeless and previously homeless youth or veterans. If these individuals or youth choose to attend school part-time in order to keep their LIHTC housing eligibility, these students may lose access to grants, loans, and scholarships that are limited to full-time students. In effect, the current rule makes it more difficult and costly for truly low-income individuals trying to achieve an education.

“We should be supporting formerly homeless youth, or any youth for the matter, to strive for a higher-education and the opportunities that come with it,” said Supervisor Farrell “I’m hopeful that Congress can act to pass this pending, bi-partisan bill to truly help some of the most vulnerable in our society work towards a path of self-sufficiency.”

United States Senator Al Franken (D — Minnesota) and United States Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) have introduced Senate Bill 1412 — the Housing for Homeless Students Act — which would ensure that individuals, including veterans and youth, who have experienced homelessness have access to affordable housing while they pursue an education. The proposed changes to the LIHTC will allow full-time students who experience or have recently experienced homelessness to become eligible, or retain eligibility, for LIHTC funded housing units.

Supervisor Farrell was first made aware of this issue from the Community Housing Partnership (CHP) based on their interviews where CHP staff talked to people that they serve about the problems they face. Not being able to go to school full-time was one that came up over and over again, especially for the transitional aged youth that live in the Marina at the recently completed Edward II building that CHP helps to manage. CHP has stated a petition urging changes to the current LIHTC program that can be viewed here:

“Every day, we tell formerly homeless people living in affordable housing to defer their dreams of continued education and job training,” said Gail Gilman, Executive Director of the Community Housing Partnership. “Modernizing these regulations is a basic common sense step to increase economic justice in cities across the United States.”

In San Francisco, there are 126 affordable housing sites that are funded through the LIHTC program. Additionally, there are two transitional age youth supportive housing buildings that are funded through the LIHTC program. In just one of the transitional age youth supportive housing buildings, 9 out of 11 current part-time students want to be in school full-time, but are limited by the current LIHTC program.

Supervisor Farrell’s legislation will be voted on by the full Board of Supervisors at their March 1, 2016 meeting.

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