After legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was pulled from the House floor last Friday, news headlines across the country began reporting that tax reform is next on the Trump Administration’s agenda. As noted in our prior blog post, tax reform that changes the corporate tax rate, the tax-exempt bonds program and the tax-credit programs will have significant impacts on the production of the affordable housing across the country.

In an effort to protect affordable housing programs, legislators have introduced amendments to the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) that either (1) create savings to be reinvested in affordable housing programs or (2) expand the availability of housing tax credits and fix related technical issues.

The following bills were introduced in the past 60 days –

  1. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548) (the “Cantwell-Hatch bill”). According to The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, the bill builds upon prior bills (S. 2962 and S. 3237), also introduced by Sentor Maria Cantwell (D) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R), and includes “a new provision addressing planned foreclosures, a provision raising the cap to 30 percent from 20 percent on Difficult to Develop Areas (DDAs), additional criteria for community revitalization plans, a provision which codifies, rather than leaving up to Treasury regulations, the prohibition against any state QAP from including local approval or local contribution requirements, and other technical changes.” A section by section summary can be found here.
  2. Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1661). The purpose of the bill, as reported in a press release issued by co-sponsor Representative Pat Tiberi (R), is to “make the financing of affordable housing more predictable and streamlined, facilitate housing credit development in challenging markets like rural and Native American communities, increase the housing credit’s ability to serve extremely low-income tenants, and support the preservation of existing affordable housing.” The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Richard Neal (D). A section by section summary can be found here.
  3. Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2017 (H.R.948). The goal of the legislation, introduced by Representative Keith Ellison (D), is to expand the mortgage interest deduction to lower income homeowners and reinvest an estimated $241 billion in savings over 10 years into affordable housing. More information on the bill can be found here.

Bi-partisan support for these bills, especially S.548 and H.R. 1661, suggest that tax reform protecting housing tax credits is good policy. Monitoring the evolution of these bills; the President’s plan for tax reform and the industry’s response to anticipated changes in the IRC will be telling of the future affordable housing programs, especially those authorized under the IRC.

 

shankun-roberts_maia_1We are excited that Maia Shanklin Roberts has joined Ballard Spahr LLP and our Housing Plus team. Maia’s background is in community development. She worked with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Citywide Coordinating Committee on Youth Violence Prevention in Washington, D.C.

Maia is looking forward to bringing her keen insights about community development to blog readers. She has been involved in numerous affordable housing, adaptive reuse, and mixed-use transactions involving more than $800 million in federal, state, historic, and energy tax credit syndications, tax-exempt private activity bonds, and other public financing.

Please join us in welcoming Maia to the firm and our Housing Plus team.

 

Last week, Ballard Spahr in conjunction with CSG Advisors hosted its 7th Annual Western Housing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The Conference brought together a wide range of public and private housing professionals facilitating a dynamic conversation on current developments in government-assisted housing.

The Conference opened with a “Washington Update” – a discussion on housing policy under the Trump Administration. Panelists Emily Cadik, Director of Public Policy at Enterprise Community Partners, and Peter Lawrence, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Novogradac & Company LLP, brought extensive insight into the political priorities driving forthcoming changes to government-assisted housing programs.

Significant takeaways from the discussion included:

  • The concern over a predicted decrease in HUD’s budget by $6 million, as outlined by the Washington Post on March 8th. Since the panel occurred, the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018 budget was released. Housing Plus posted a blog providing an overview of the budget blueprint on March 16, 2017.
  • The elimination of one or more of the tax credit programs, private activity bonds and/or the reduction of the corporate tax rate through tax reform will have significant impacts on the availability of equity financing needed to at least sustain affordable housing development at its current levels.
  • An infrastructure bill that includes housing may be an opportunity to meet any deficits created by HUD budget cuts to the Public Housing Capital Fund and Community Development Block Grant programs.
  • The spending caps under the existing Budget Control Act also pose a threat to government-assisted housing programs, especially in light of the proposed increases in defense spending and the resulting offsets that would be needed from non-defense discretionary spending.
  • Stakeholders should continue to invite legislators and members of Congress to ribbon cuttings and site visits in their districts. These visits are critical in gaining Congressional support for government-assisted housing programs.

The second session of the Conference focused on lessons learned from implementing the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Nicole Ferreira, Vice President for Development at the New York City Housing Authority, and Jenny Scanlin, Director of Development at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, each provided a case study from which they described the benefits and limitations of the program and the financial structures making each deal work. Beverly Rudman, Director of the Closing/Post Closing Department in HUD’s Office of Recapitalization, provided an update on the program and described particular challenges facing her office, which oversees the RAD program. The panel highlighted the following as effective tools for successfully underwriting a RAD deal and securing community and tenant buy-in: (1) Tenant Protection Vouchers, (2) the demolition and disposition process under Section 18 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, (3) seller take back financing from the Housing Authority and (4) federal and local redevelopment grants.

Panelists Tom Capp, Chief Operating Officer of Gorman & Company, C.J. Eisenbarth Hager, Director of Healthy Community Polices at Vitalyst Health Foundation, and Keon Montgomery, Housing Manager for the City of Phoenix Housing Department, then provided a local perspective on how private/public partnerships can be used to create sustaining change in communities. The panel emphasized the use of health studies in the predevelopment process to generate academic research on the specific needs of the impacted community and solicit funding from public and private partners to address those needs.

The last panel focused on the changes in the affordable housing finance market. Monty Childs, Director of Loan Origination and Structuring at Freddie Mac, John Ducey, Manager of Multifamily Affordable Housing-Credit at Fannie Mae, Sarah Garland, Senior Vice President at PNC Bank, Catalina Velma, Vice President of Public Housing at the National Equity Fund, and Cody Wilson, Director at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, each provided a unique perspective on the impact of recent and prospective economic changes (e.g. tax reform, HUD budget cuts and rises in interest rates) on the equity, bond and lending markets, as well as the increased challenge in financing small and rural projects. The panel also discussed financing tools like Tax-Exempt Loans (Freddie Mac), Reduced Occupancy Affordable Rehab (ROAR) Execution (Fannie Mae) and FHA 221(d)(4) Loans (HUD), which have been found to address some of the challenges faced in the market.

A copy of the conference materials can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding the information above, or want more information on how to register for next year’s conference, please contact Jennifer Boehm at boehmj@ballarspahr.com.

Comments on the following HUD and housing related guidance are due this month.

  • HOTMA implementation for Section 8 Voucher Programs – Due March 20, 2017

On January 18, 2017, HUD issued a proposed rule to implement certain sections of the Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) that affect the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) programs. Among other changes, the proposed rule amends the definition of public housing authority (PHA) owned housing, and institutes new provisions regarding housing quality inspection requirements for both the HCV and PBV programs. HUD is seeking public comment on a variety of questions surrounding the implementation requirements and future changes of both programs.

Comments may be submitted to HUD  electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5976-N-03) or by mail to the Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410-0500.

  • Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Operations Notice – Due March 24, 2017

As noted in our previous blog post, HUD is soliciting comments to its Operations Notice for the expansion of the MTW Program. The full list of questions for which HUD seeks public comment is listed in Appendix C of the Notice. Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5994-N-01)  or by mail to the same address noted above.

  • DOJ Proposed Rule amending Section 504 Regulations – Due March 20, 2017

On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise its regulations at 28 CFR Part 42 that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in all programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Key revisions include amending the interpretation of the applicable definition of  “disability”;  updating accessibility standards for new construction and alteration of buildings and other facilities; and editing various provisions and terminology to promote consistency with judicial decisions and the Americans with Disabilities Act and related amendments.

Comments may be submitted to DOJ (1) electronically through www.regulations.gov (Docket No. OAG 154); (2) by regular mail to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031-0885; or (3) by overnight, courier, or hand delivery to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425 New York Avenue NW., Suite 4055, Washington, DC 20005.

The following lists additional housing news our readers may have missed recently —

  • Dr. Ben Carson Confirmed as HUD Secretary

On March 2, 2017, Dr. Ben Carson was sworn in as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to  HUD’s press release, Secretary Carson intends to embark on a listening tour of various HUD field offices and communities throughout the country.

  • Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 introduced in U.S. Senate

In an effort to help reform the low-income housing tax credit, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548), along with several other Democratic and Republican co-sponsors on March 7th. The bill includes and expands upon similar legislation introduced by the Senators last year (S. 2962 and S. 3237). Visit the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s S. 548 advocacy page for more in-depth summaries of the bill’s provisions and comparisons between the current bill and 2016 legislation. Interested persons can also track the bill’s progress at www.congress.gov.

  • Public Housing Authorities prevail in Operating Reserves Litigation

In late January, the United States Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of approximately 350 public housing authorities on the merits of a motion for summary judgment against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Led by housing industry groups, the complaint alleged that HUD breached its Annual Contributions Contract with the PHAs for fiscal year 2012 when the formula used for budget calculations and allocations did not property follow HUD regulations and thus reduced the operating fund subsidies the PHAs were eligible for in that year. A full copy of the Court’s decision can be accessed here.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys were advised to file a status report in February 2017 to advise how the Court should proceed with the case.

In an announcement on January 12th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a significant third revision to the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Notice (PIH 2012-32/ H 2017-03 Rev-3). According to HUD, the RAD notice was revised in order to maintain the increased pace of RAD transactions in a manner that is consistent and flexible. The revised notice is effective upon its forthcoming publication in the Federal Register, though several eligibility criteria will remain subject to a 30-day public comment period. Some of the substantive changes to the RAD Notice include the following:

  • Project-Based Voucher (PBV) Unit Cap

The revised RAD notice eliminates the standard 25% limit so that there is no longer any cap on the number of units in a project that may receive PBV assistance.  Before this latest modification, RAD allowed up to 50% of the units in a project to receive PBV assistance; provided 100% of the units could receive such assistance if at least 50% of the units were occupied by (i) elderly or non-elderly disabled households or (ii) families receiving supportive services.

  • Resident Notification

The revised RAD notice expanded the notification requirements public housing authorities (PHAs) must give residents at a project identified for conversion. Most significantly, before submitting a RAD application, PHAs must now disclose to residents any preliminary intent to (i) include a transfer of assistance; (ii) partner with a third party entity that will have a general partner/managing member interest in the new project owner; (iii) make changes in the number or configuration of any assisted units; (iv) impose any  change potentially impacting the household’s ability to reoccupy the unit; (v) the scope of work; and (vi) implement any deminimis reduction of units vacant for more than 24 months at the time of the RAD application. PHAs must issue a RAD Information Notice and General Information Notice (if required) according to the RAD Fair Housing, Civil Rights, and Relocation Notice (H/PIH 2016-17)  to inform residents of their rights in connection with the conversion. PHAs are also required to have an additional resident meeting prior to submitting its Financing Plan, and conduct subsequent meetings with residents to discuss any material changes to utility allowance calculations or substantial changes to the conversion plan.

  • Right to Return & Rescreening

Under the new RAD notice, existing public housing residents at a project converting to RAD who will occupy non-RAD PBV units or non-RAD PBRA units following conversion are protected against post-conversion occupancy exclusion due to revised rescreening, income eligibility, or income targeting policies.  Thus, even those public housing residents that will reside in non-RAD units post-conversion will preserve this right to return.

  • Use of PHA Acquisition Proceeds

Any cash acquisition proceeds a PHA receives in excess of seller take-back financing must be used for “Affordable Housing Purposes.” The definition of “Affordable Housing Purposes” is now set out in the definitions section of the Notice and applies in more instances.  The revised RAD Notice defines “Affordable Housing Purposes” as those activities that support the predevelopment, development, or rehabilitation of other RAD conversions, public housing, Section 8, Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) or other federal or local housing programs that either (i) serve households with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income or (ii) provide services or amenities that will be used primarily by low-income households as defined by the United States Housing Act of 1937.

  • Expanded Criteria for Ownership or Control Requirement

The latest revisions to the RAD Notice describes further circumstances under which a public or non-profit entity acting directly or through a wholly owned affiliate can meet the ownership or control requirements, including if it (i) holds a fee simple interest in the land; (ii) is the ground lessor pursuant to a ground lease with the project owner; (iii) has legal authority to direct the financial and legal interests of the project owner with respect to the RAD units; (iv) owns 51% or more of the general partner/managing member interest in a limited partnership or limited liability company; (v) owns less than 51% of a general partner/managing member interest but holds certain HUD-approved control rights; (vi) owns 51% or more of the total ownership interests and holds certain HUD-approved control rights; or (vii) enters other ownership and control arrangements as approved by HUD.

  • Maximum Developer Fee

For LIHTC transactions, undeferred portions of earned developer fee are now capped at the greater of (a) 15% of total development costs less acquisition payments to the PHA, developer fees and reserves; and (b) the lesser of (i) $1 million and (ii) 15% of the total development costs without any offsets for acquisition payments to the PHA, developer fees and reserves. Developer fee limits applicable under the prior version of the RAD Notice continue in effect for all transaction in which the RAD Conversion Commitment (RCC) was issued within 60 days following the current revisions to the Notice and which close prior to the later of 60 days after the revised Notice and 60 days after the RCC.

Developer fee remains subject to the LIHTC allocating agency’s schedule for payment. For non-LIHTC deals, the total earned developer fee can be up to 10% of total development costs less any acquisition costs, reserves, or developer fee payments. The revised RAD Notice also states that earned developer fee is also not subject to any federal restrictions, whereas RAD Notice Rev-2 only stated that it was not to be counted as program income.

  • Capital Needs Assessment (CNA) Exemptions

The revised RAD Notice allows HUD to exempt projects from the need to conduct a Capital Needs Assessment where the total number of RAD and other PBV-assisted units constitute less than 20% of total units at project, or a higher amount at HUD’s discretion. It is also important to note that under this revision, all CNA exemptions listed are discretionary not automatic, and must be confirmed with the assigned RAD Transaction Manager for the project conversion.

To review additional changes made in the latest version of the RAD Notice, HUD has also offered a blackline comparison to Revision 2.  

Ballard Spahr is committed to facilitating and leading the conversation within the affordable housing community, which makes us thrilled to announce our Eleventh Annual National Housing Conference in Washington, D.C., from November 3 to 4. This two-day, complimentary event features engaging discussions, panel presentations, special insights, and networking opportunities with the key influences and power players of the affordable housing industry.

Day one is our Housing Authority Summit. Housing authority executives will join us to discuss the most critical issues and challenges they face and explore solutions to help push your housing authority into the future. Panels and roundtables will cover various topics, including property tax exemptions, strategic relationship development, financing strategies, fair housing, and RAD transactions. Registration for the Summit is limited to those in leadership roles at housing authorities; however we will curate blog content around the pertinent matters that will be covered. If you would like additional information on attending the Summit, please contact Jennifer Boehm.

Day two will feature our National Housing Symposium, an open event where our high-powered lineup of presenters will explore today’s housing market and look into the future, now that post-recession demand is driving exciting programs and initiatives. In addition to the popular Heard on the Hill discussion, panels will discuss the latest in RAD projects, fair housing problems, demographic trends, Year 15 issues, and multifamily housing bonds. Registration is free, and our detailed program description is available.

We are excited to provide an informative and collaborative forum for dialogue, exploration, and networking within an industry about which we feel so passionate. Though we will certainly blog about conference updates and insights, we hope you will join us in person!

After several years of litigation, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas recently dismissed disparate impact claims filed against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in the fair housing case, The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. v. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The Inclusive Communities Project (ICP) claims alleged that TDHCA’s procedures for allocating low-income housing tax credits had a disparate impact on racial minorities and thus violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Following the District Court’s initial ruling that ICP made a successful prima facie showing of disparate impact, the case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court. Even though the Supreme Court held that disparate impact claims were cognizable under the FHA, the case was remanded so ICP’s claims and TDHCA’s defenses could be reassessed in light of the standards in the Supreme Court verdict and new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations for evaluating disparate impact claims.

On August 26, 2016, the District Court held that ICP failed to make a prima facie showing of disparate impact under the current standard because its claims (i) did not identify any specific, facially neutral policy that caused the disparate impact, (ii) were in essence claims disparate treatment, and (iii) failed to demonstrate that TDHCA’s policies actually caused the statistical disparities asserted by ICP. For more information, see the Housing Group’s e-alert on this verdict.

Congress recently passed a short-term extension to keep the EB-5 Regional Center Program (commonly known as the EB-5 Program or the Immigration Investor Program) from expiring. The EB-5 program adds versatility to the financing options available to affordable housing, and can be used with certain Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The extension of this program allows the Senate and House more time to enhance EB-5 legislation.

Strengthened through bi-partisan support, several extension bills have been proposed this year. The proposed bills have sought to add a variety of legislation to the EB-5 Program:

  • Make regional centers permanent in addition to program enhancements;
  • Reauthorize regional centers for five years, and create oversight, security, and anti-fraud stipulations that increase transparency of the program (an overview of the Reauthorization Bill is available);
  • Provide visas for foreign entrepreneurs who have obtained venture capital, seed financing, or operate existing business with proven growth.

The EB-5 Program has generated nearly $12 billion in foreign direct investments, and has created nearly 30,000 jobs per year since 2008. The Program has already stimulated affordable housing financing and development on a national level, and the Program is poised to grow.

Our Housing or EB-5 Groups would be happy to provide more information.

Roof OutlineLast week, HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs announced Thomas R. Davis as the new Director of the Office of Recapitalization. Mr. Davis will oversee the Office’s efforts to further financial stability and viability for the preservation and recapitalization of affordable housing. The Office’s key programs include Mark-to-Market (M2M), Section 236 Preservation, Senior Preservation Rental Assistance Contracts (SPRAC), and the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).

Prior to his new appointment, Mr. Davis led the affordable housing consultant practice at Recap Real Estate Advisors and directed public housing recapitalization projects, particularly those under HUD’s RAD program. Mr. Davis also worked extensively with multi-state nonprofit affordable housing owners and developers. He directed large-scale affordable housing revitalization projects with The Community Builders, and managed a multi-jurisdictional portfolio financing of government-assisted, LIHTC units at the Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). He began his career at Morrison & Foerster, where he specialized in affordable housing and LIHTC issues.

We at Housing Plus have had the pleasure of professionally collaborating with Mr. Davis, and we are excited to see his diverse affordable housing experience and background shape HUD’s multifamily housing programs.

From May 20-22, a handful of our bloggers will speak at the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law in Washington, D.C. – an annual meeting that brings together pertinent developments, resources, strategies, and insights within the affordable housing and community development law community.

Molly R. Bryson, one of the Conference Planning Chairs, will moderate the Washington Update on Housing and Tax Related Issues — a panel of industry leaders discussing the latest developments in housing and tax credit reform.

Amy M. McClain will moderate the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) session, which explores the need-to-know financial and legal considerations for the RAD conversion process. The panel of HUD and other industry leaders will review relevant HUD guidance impacting RAD implementation, and add key perspectives to RAD as means to enhance the long-term financial stability of a housing authority’s affordable housing stock.

Scott W. Cockerham will participate in Numbers for Lawyers: Analyzing and Understanding Financial Projections and the Concepts Behind Them, a workshop that discusses financial projections for tax credit transactions as they relate to both investors and developers.

Amy M. Glassman will speak on an array of Fair Housing laws as part of the panel “What Does the Lawyer Representing HUD/FHA Multifamily Developers, Owners and Managers Need to Know About Fair Housing?”. The discussion will cover how Fair Housing laws apply to the design, construction, and demolition/disposition of multifamily housing properties, as well as how the laws affect housing for the elderly and other supportive services.

The full program of the ABA Forum is available, and we look forward to further sharing our insights.