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A tax credit that works for vets

Ending homelessness for our brave returning veterans is an ambitious but doable goal. But it requires an effective and strong Low Income Housing Tax Credit program says Matt Josephs, LISC’s vice president for policy. In this article, Josephs takes a look at how policy and purpose intersect for low-income veterans, as they find the help they need at places like the new Liberty Village, in Amityville, N.Y.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about our national effort to help homeless veterans reclaim their independence.

Maybe it's the time of year, moving toward another November 11, when we honor those who have bravely served. Or, maybe it's because of increasing number of new housing developments focused on veterans' needs. In fact, LISC is celebrating yet another grand opening later this month in the South Bronx, where The Bridge is opening 17 units of supportive housing for veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health challenges.

The fact is the more I get out of Washington to see of these projects first-hand, the more I understand their remarkable impact. That was certainly the case in Long Island recently, where I had the opportunity to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Liberty Village. It's a beautiful new development that is now home to 60 veterans and their families. Many of the veterans were recently homeless, and many others have special needs.

Photo: Concern for Independent Living
Photo: Concern for Independent Living

The property is located on the site of a former Armed Forces Reserve Center, and the land was made available through the efforts of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Defense. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who kicked off a long list of impressive speakers at the ceremony, noted the role that these federal agencies played in bringing this property to fruition, but added that it was the investment of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that "made the project tick."

We at LISC aren't at all surprised by that sentiment. The Housing Credit underpins the majority of affordable housing built in every state. In this case, National Equity Fund (NEF), LISC's tax credit syndication arm, secured financing from Bank of America to cover $13.1 million of the project's $21.6 million price tag. The tax credit equity moved the project forward and ensured that the units would be affordable to low-income households, with on-site social services available for residents. LISC also assembled grants from Citi Community Development, the MetLife Foundation and Northrop Grumman to fund an adjacent employment center that will help veterans and low-income residents throughout the area gain the skills and jobs they need to succeed.

Since we launched this effort in 2007, we have supported 2,500 new units for homeless and very low-income veterans and their families in 16 states.

Liberty Village—developed by the nonprofit Concern for Independent Living—is just one of many projects for veterans that LISC and NEF have supported with Housing Credit investments. Through our Bring them HOMES initiative, we are helping end veteran homelessness by providing technical assistance, predevelopment grants and loans, and Housing Credit equity to properties throughout the country. Since we launched this effort in 2007, we have supported 2,500 new units for homeless and very low-income veterans and their families in 16 states. Another 2,400 units are currently in pre-development. All of these projects require the Housing Credits to "make them tick."

Unfortunately, the clock is also ticking on the Housing Credit itself. In recent years, a critical but temporary provision to the program has helped projects attract larger equity investments at practically no cost to taxpayers. This "fixed-rate" provision—which keeps Housing Credit values from falling too low—expired at the end of 2013. Unless it is extended, many projects that could offer decent homes to low-income veterans and other vulnerable populations might not have the capital they need to move forward.

Sen. Schumer said it best at Liberty Village: "One homeless veteran is one too many." Congress will be considering a host of extensions to the tax code following the November elections, including legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Schumer to make the temporary fix permanent. We need to make sure lawmakers understand that a strong Housing Credit supports the men and women who have so ably served our country.

Matt JosephsABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Josephs, Senior Vice President for Policy
Matt manages the team that is responsible for developing LISC’s federal policy agenda; communicating this agenda to LISC employees, board members, funders and other stakeholders; and pursuing this agenda through engagement with members of Congress and other federal officials.

NEF secured $13.1 million in financing to build veteran housing