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State and local governments sell tax-exempt Housing Bonds, commonly known as Mortgage Revenue Bonds (MRBs) and Multifamily Housing Bonds, and use the proceeds to finance low-cost mortgages for lower income first-time homebuyers or the production of apartments at rents affordable to lower income families. MRBs have made first-time homeownership possible for almost 3 million lower income families, approximately 100,000 every year. Multifamily Housing Bonds have provided financing to produce nearly 1 million apartments affordable to lower income families.

Each state’s annual issuance of Housing Bonds is capped. The 2013 limit is $95 multiplied by the state population, with a state minimum of $291.87 million. MRB mortgages are restricted to first-time home buyers who earn no more than the area median income (AMI). Larger families can earn up to 115 percent of AMI. In 2011, state HFAs provided MRB mortgages to families with an average income of $38,967, just 77 percent of the national median income. The price of a home purchased with a MRB mortgage is limited to 90 percent of the average area purchase price.

Multifamily housing bond developments must set aside at least 40 percent of their apartments for families with incomes of 60 percent of AMI or less, or 20 percent for families with incomes of 50 percent of AMI or less.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008, championed by NCSHA and its allies, provided $11 billion in new Housing Bond Authority to be available through 2010 and made a number of additional changes, including exempting Housing Bond interest from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

The recent economic crisis significantly diminished investor interest in MRBs and therefore severely limited the amount of funds available to finance affordable home mortgages and multifamily loans. During this period, NCSHA works with the Administration and Congress to support HFA efforts to issue more Housing Bonds and address their variable rate debt liquidity needs. In October 2009, the Obama Administration announced its HFA Initiative, through which the Treasury agreed to purchase tax-exempt housing bonds from state and local HFAs to help them weather the weak credit markets created by the crisis. This program helped HFAs provide 135,000 affordable mortgages to responsible low-and-moderate income borrowers and supported the development and rehabilitation of 40,000 units of affordable housing. 

Housing Bonds and Tax Reform

Recently, as part of plans to comprehensively reform the federal tax code, the Administration and some in Congress have called for the tax-exemption for municipal bonds interest, including for housing bonds,  to be repealed or capped. This would greatly diminish investor interest in housing bonds, making it much more difficult for HFAs to utilize these bonds to fulfill their affordable housing missions. 

Advocating for support for the Housing Bond program is one of NCSHA’s Legislative Priorities. NCSHA is currently meeting with policymakers to ensure that housing bonds retain their tax-exempt status in any tax reform legislation that advances through Congress. 

 

Useful Links: Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, IRS Information About Tax-Exempt Bonds

NCSHA Blog Posts

  • March 24, 2017
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    Earlier this week, Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) introduced the Municipal Finance Support Act of 2017 (H.R. 1624). The legislation would allow large banks to count some of their municipal bond investments, including tax-exempt housing bonds, as high-quality liquid assets under federal bank liquidity standards.

  • March 22, 2017
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    Late yesterday, senior Ways and Means Committee member Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017, H.R. 1661. The bill is companion legislation to the bill Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced earlier this month.

    News

    Housing Bonds - Resources

    • March 22, 2017

      Section 101 - Average income test - Under current law, Housing Credit apartments serve renters with incomes up to 60 percent of area median income (AMI) and rents are comparably restricted. This section creates a new test that would allow the 60 percent of AMI ceiling to apply to the average of all apartments within a property rather than to every individual Housing Credit apartment. The maximum income to qualify for any Housing Credit apartment would be limited to 80 percent of AMI.

    • March 20, 2017

      Key Congressional Committee Rosters for NCSHA in the 115th Congress.