We think the New York Times editorial on housing got it two-thirds right and one-third way wrong.
In a December 20 editorial the New York Times called for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit retaining and enlarging as Congress and the Obama Administration considers changes to the tax code. The newspaper also called for “the credit itself improved by focusing it more closely on needy areas and on the neediest families — those who earn only 30 percent of average median income in their area — while at the same time encouraging mixed-income developments.”
We agree with targeting housing to those most in need. It is distressing that Texas has moved in the opposite direction by removing incentives in the 2013 plan for allocating housing tax credits for the poor. Without those incentives in the competition for tax credits, developers will not build apartments the poor can afford.
The federal government needs to act to compel states like Texas to use these limited housing subsidies to help those struggling families most in need instead of handing a taxpayer-funded windfall to apartment developers.
We strongly disagree with housing credits being focused on “needy areas” if this implies focusing housing tax credits in high poverty neighborhoods. We do support some portion of the housing tax credit being used for revitalization of housing in selected instances in high poverty neighborhoods when part of real community revitalization. But to focus these limited funds on building more affordable housing in high poverty neighborhoods is bad public policy. New housing created through the housing tax credit should be mainly used to create housing for lower-income families in neighborhoods where the poor cannot now live. In other words, let lower-income families have a choice about where to live, find a better school and safer neighborhood for their kids and move to where the jobs are and not being forced by government mandate to live only in high poverty areas.
Segregating the poor in poverty areas has been the de facto national housing policy of this country for too long and the results are disastrous for the poor and our country.