Terner Center Blog: No Limits

Category Archives: Assessing Impact of Housing Policies & Programs

Balancing the tax code to relieve housing cost burdens

Posted on by Terner Center Team

Of the more than 21 millions renters in the United States who are burdened by the cost of housing today, more than 15 million can not access assistance they are eligible for, because there aren’t enough federal resources to meet their needs. In part, this is a result of skewed tax code that directs significant expenditures to homeowners and other policy priorities, and leaves the housing security and economic mobility of renter families behind. 

Amidst emerging conversations about reforming the federal tax code, it is important that we are reminded of this imbalance and seize the opportunity, should there be one, to address it. As we discussed in our November 2016 paper and blog, a national renter’s tax credit would go along way to achieving this goal and helping to bring more fairness into the system.

Our policy brief proposed the Federal Assistance In Rental (FAIR) tax credit, which would leverage the tax code to direct much needed resources to renters, with three potential options for implementation. These options vary in terms of their price tag and reach, but all are designed to help stabilize the finances and housing situation of vulnerable renters. Today, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which first put forth a renter’s tax credit proposal in 2013, released a new paper further exploring strategies for implementation. The paper offers a number of refinements to CBPP’s original proposal, including a “project-based” implementation, which would be administered by states to allocate credits to developers and owners. This feature simplifies the proposal considerably.

Beyond the Terner Center and CBPP, a number of thought leaders across the political spectrum have expressed support for, or offered their own versions of, a renter’s tax credit. As the dialogue around tax reform gains momentum, rebalancing the tax code to better serve low-income renters should be a high priority, and a renter’s tax credit could help us get there. 


State Policy Solutions to the Short Supply of Housing

When it comes to a lack of affordability in housing, it’s no secret that California is outpacing the nation. Average home prices are about two and half times more expensive than the rest of the country, and rents are about 50 percent higher. A shortage in supply is a key contributing factor, and we need both public policy and private sector solutions that will help expand housing production to better meet demand. This week, the Terner Center is sharing an analysis of one important avenue to meeting this challenge in California: improvements to state land use regulations to promote an…


Why By-Right Affordable Housing in California is the Right Thing to do

Posted on by Carol Galante

The following piece was originally drafted as a letter of support for Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed legislation to streamline local housing approvals. The original letter, with citations, can be found here.   The Permit Streamlining Act. On May 13, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a change to state law that would streamline affordable housing proposals and spur much needed housing production. Introduced as a part of the administration’s May Revision to the 2016-17 Budget, the by-right bill would effectively change the way local jurisdictions approve housing projects. In doing so, Brown has acknowledged that in order to facilitate more building throughout…


Federal Housing Administration Delivers Success

Posted on by Carol Galante

Today, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) delivered its Annual Report to Congress and the report demonstrates that FHA met and exceeded the 2% capital reserve requirement for the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund (MMIF) and improved the Fund value by over $40 billion since it went negative in fiscal year 2012. This good news validates that the policies put in place by FHA over the last 7 years have enabled FHA to strengthen its financial position while also strengthening the economy and providing access to mortgage credit to millions of families. The FHA team deserves tremendous credit for this achievement. The…


On Housing, Good News for Families and Communities

Posted on by Carol Galante

President Obama’s announcement that the Federal Housing Administration will lower the cost of its home loans by one-half of a percentage point (.50 basis points) should be very welcome news. Home loans will now be within reach for many more hard working and responsible families who have been left on the sidelines of the economic recovery. This cost reduction is good for homeowners and would-be homeowners, communities still struggling to recover from the recession, and the economy more generally. The National Association of Realtors reports the first-time homebuyer has been largely absent during the economic recovery. The inventory of homes…