Washington, DC – December 7, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — Today U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is introducing legislation to help provide more affordable housing options for military service members. The Military Families Affordable Homes Act of 2009 would enable more military personnel to apply to live in designated affordable housing communities. Current policies make it nearly impossible for even the lowest-paid enlisted personnel to meet the income requirements for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Housing Program (LIHTC) program. Under the new proposal, thousands of military families across the country would qualify for the program to gain access to more affordable homes and approximately 50% of junior enlisted military families stationed at facilities in New York would benefit.
“We need to remove the barriers that prevent our soldiers from accessing affordable housing,” said Schumer. “Our service members and their families sacrifice so much to serve our country and in return we must serve them. The least we can do is make sure they have a roof over their head in the nation they fought to protect. This legislation will provide our brave men and women with the chance to have a house of their own at an affordable price.”
Under current law, real estate developers qualify for and sell low-income housing tax credits to investors to raise capital for the construction and maintenance of rental properties with affordable rates. However, these rental units are not open to everyone. A LIHTC affordable housing unit requires at least 20 percent of the units to be occupied by households that have an income at or below 50 percent of the area median income or at least 40 percent of the units must be occupied by households that have an income at or below 60 percent of the area median income. The area median income is determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Most enlisted military personnel have total annual pay that is below the cutoff for LIHTC housing. Despite this, when military personnel apply for LIHTC housing, their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is added to their total annual pay for the purposes of calculating income – and as a result, nearly all military families are excluded.
In 2008, Congress passed a very limited exception to this policy – allowing service members stationed at one of only nine select installations to apply for LIHTC Housing without including their BAH. None of the exempted facilities are in New York. However, only exempting nine installations excludes thousands of low-income military families – mostly young families – from qualifying for affordable housing. In fact, current policies make it nearly impossible for even the lowest-paid enlisted personnel to meet the income requirements. Currently only 10% of military families can qualify for the exemption because their BAH is included in the family’s income calculations to determine qualifications for rental housing built with Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
The Military Families Affordable Homes Act, which extends the 2008 exemption to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stationed at any U.S. military installation, would allow far more military families to take advantage of affordable housing options in their communities.
Under the Military Families Affordable Homes Act, thousands of military service families across the country will be able to exclude their BAH from the qualification calculations meaning that more will have access to the LIHTC program. Here is how the numbers break down for the facilities in Upstate NY:
· Of the 6,156 active military families stationed at Fort Drum, approximately 3,000 families would qualify for LIHTC housing
· Of the 108 active military families stationed at Scotia Naval Admin, approximately 54 families would qualify for LIHTC housing
· Of the 148 active military families stationed at West Point, approximately 74 families would qualify for LIHTC housing
· Of the 108 active military families stationed at Stewart Newburgh Air Force Reserve Center, approximately 54 families would qualify for LIHTC housing
“Providing greater access to affordable housing for our soldiers is critical,” said Schumer. “We cannot thrive without quality, affordable housing, and the Military Families Affordable Homes Act will help ensure that there is a high quality, affordable rental housing for our soldiers in New York and across the country.”