Thanks to bikerowen, whose comment at the Mercury opinion page today caused me to make a phone call to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (717.780.3800).
I have heard that the Partnership for Income Restricted Housing Leadership (PIRHL), the developer of the proposed age-restricted, rental project near the river, has never directly answered the question in public, “What tax credit program is this?” Could it be that it is the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program and the name is not very attractive, especially for Pottstown’s efforts to change its image? It includes the term “Low Income” in its name because that’s who it serves. I am not aware of any moderate- or middle-income tax credit programs and would be glad to hear about them if they exist.
Here’s a program definition from an overview at the Pennsylvania Housing Agency’s website: “The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program (“Tax Credit Program”) is a federal program created by the 1986 Tax Reform Act and amended pursuant to several subsequent Budget Reconciliation Acts. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (“Agency”) is the Commonwealth agency responsible for the administration of the Tax Credit Program. The purpose of the Tax Credit Program is to assist in the creation and preservation of affordable housing for low-income households.” (my emphasis added)
Preliminary applications for the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program are due on or before Nov. 5, 2010. (The only deadline coming up for a tax credit application.) If the Preliminary Application is approved by the Agency, applicants may submit a full Underwriting Application for Tax Credit consideration on or before March 1, 2011. On the Agency’s Program Notices page, under the Multifamily Rental Housing Programs section, click on the Draft Housing Allocation Plan link to see the programs and guidelines for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Allocation Plan for Year 2011, Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. (The Agency is using the Draft Plan until the final approval of the plan at its October meeting.)
The income and rent limits that apply to this program appear in this chart. Scroll down to Montgomery County.
The Montgomery County figures on this chart present a discrepancy among the $500-$800 estimated rents; the 60% of median income, which is what has been reported; and/or the one- and two-bedroom units being proposed.
One- and two-bedroom rents in the $500-$800 range coincide with persons at the 40-50% of median income levels. By virtually all affordable housing standards, this is considered “low income,” not “moderate income.” 60% of median income is the maximum allowed under the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. I believe you get more tax credits if you elect to peg your rents below 50% of median rather than 60% of median.
According to the chart, if these 1- and 2-bedroom units are pegged for “moderate-income” seniors, you’d be looking at 60% of median income and the rents would be in the range of $800-$1000.
So, which is it?
1- and 2- bedroom low-income rentals at $500-$800
1- and 2-bedroom moderate-income rentals at $800-$1,000
Please note on Page 7 of the Tax Credit Program General Overview Requirements that, “A prospective tenant may not be denied admission into a Tax Credit property because of holding a voucher or certificate of eligibility under Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937; if they are otherwise eligible.”
All of PIRHL’s featured projects at their website have used Low Income Housing Tax Credits or LIHTCs. There shouldn’t be any confusion about the rent ranges for low-income vs. moderate-income, 1- and 2-bedroom rentals in Pottstown, unless The Mercury got it wrong twice. If that’s the case, then please accept my apology and disregard this post.
Having cut my teeth in affordable housing and still considering myself an advocate across the board for the less fortunate in society, I’m not usually on this side of this argument. But Pottstown is bearing more than its fair share of affordable housing in this region.
I know full well that no one ever asked me to be Pottstown’s “advocate,” but I feel strongly that “knowledge is power,” and Pottstown as a whole seems to operate at the mercy of those with more information or knowledge, whatever you want to call it, or to simply not engage with them. I’m simply urging Council and members of the public to ask questions and demand answers. In the meantime, I will keep putting my knowledge out there in service to the public as best I can.