U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse on Tuesday filed two bills aimed at protecting affordable housing and its financing — one of which Boulder leaders said would aid the city’s goal of preserving housing as permanently affordable.
One of the bills would remove a requirement that a property be owned for 10 years before a federal tax credit, the low income housing tax credit, could be used to purchase the property for affordable housing.
“This comes up a lot,” said Jeremy Durham, executive director of Boulder Housing Partners. “We look at a property and we are either not able to put together a financing package that works for it or we’re not able to put together a financing package that reaches the deep levels of affordability that are needed to house the Boulder workforce.”
The legislation would allow Boulder Housing Partners to acquire properties adjacent to transit, parks and other amenities — “as opposed to being held back by the relatively arbitrary test of whether a property that we’re looking to acquire and make permanently affordable has been held by the same owner for a period of 10 years,” Durham said.
Although Boulder Housing Partners can potentially acquire properties without the tax credit, it cannot necessarily achieve the same levels of affordability, like 30% or 40% of the area median income, without it, Durham said.
“Those are much harder to achieve,” he said. “This would allow us to have more opportunities to have more of those.”
Durham said this was one of the issues he raised during outreach by Neguse’s team to affordable housing providers after Neguse’s election.
In the past five years, nearly half of the affordable housing created in the city has been through preservation, said Kurt Firnhaber, director of Boulder Housing and Human Services.
“In the city of Boulder, this would open up the available potential housing stock we could look at and turn toward preservation,” Firnhaber said.
The 10-year rule was meant to prevent properties from being flipped quickly, he said, but tax laws have shifted since it was put in place.
“The tax laws have changed, so that concern isn’t there anymore,” Firnhaber said. “This bill would allow preservation to be more easily accomplished.”
The other bill would not affect Boulder’s affordable housing stock but would aid other communities, Firnhaber said. It would dictate that properties that receive the low income housing tax credit remain affordable for 30 years, rather than allowing a release and conversion to market-rate housing at 15 years.
In Boulder, permanent affordable housing has been in place since the early 1990s. The policies were developed in 1991 and adopted into the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan in 1992, according to city spokesman Zach McGee.
“Boulder is one of the first communities in the country to put affordability-in-perpetuity in place,” Firnhaber said. “Other communities are now starting to slowly adopt that approach. In other communities, this is a big impact.”
Neguse in a written statement said the lack of affordable housing in communities across the county is at a crisis level.
“Here in Boulder County, our local leaders have prioritized growing affordable housing opportunities to 15% by 2035,” he said. “At the federal level, we want to partner with those efforts by ensuring that the federal laws are best equipping us to expand affordable housing opportunities.”