Could Trump Tax Cuts Spell End to Public Housing?

by: Shantella Y. Sherman Special to the AFRO ssherman@afro.com
/ (Screengrab from video via Twitter @MayorBowser) /
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Amid an unprecedented affordable housing crisis, District officials are bracing for a potential fall-out from the loss of tax incentives to developers under a tax cut proposed by President Donald J. Trump and amended by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Republican Tax Reform Bill, H.R. 1, which proposes to reduce corporate and individual income taxes, could, according to opponents including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), lead to the ruin of funding for affordable housing.  Bowser and Norton held a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 13, to make their concerns over the tax reform bill public. Bowser reiterated her concerns again, during a ribbon cutting for a 190-unit affordable housing structure days later.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) held a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 13, to make their concerns over the tax reform bill public. (Screengrab from video via Twitter @MayorBowser)

“Under the current House tax reform bill, affordable housing projects like Archer Park would not be possible. It is unconscionable for any member of Congress to consider passing a tax reform bill that makes it more difficult for Americans to access affordable housing,” Bowser told attendees at the ribbon cutting. “I encourage every representative who is considering voting in favor of H.R.1 to come visit Archer Park and meet the families and individuals who are making a better life for themselves here; then, they can see firsthand the devastating effects H.R.1 will have on Americans across our country.”

Bowser told reporters at the Nov. 15 unveiling that since 2010 nearly 9,000 units of affordable housing had been built in the District using so-called private activity bonds—tax exempt bonds issued by the government for a private user such as real estate developer. “I joined leaders from around the country in highlighting the devastating effects H.R.1 will have on District residents and Americans across the U.S.,” Bowser said during the groundbreaking ceremony for Archer Park, an affordable housing complex in Southeast D.C. “State and Local Tax deduction will raise taxes on middle class homeowners and families, and the elimination of Private Activity Bonds will worsen the affordable housing crises happening throughout our country and make it more difficult for veterans, families, and the elderly to meet their basic needs.”

Residents as well, voiced concerns over the impact the tax reform could have. “This could be devastating for the city’s most vulnerable residents – those who need public housing, not just affordable housing – which could mean even those with $100,000-a year-salaries,” Ward 6 community activist Jennell Johnson-Redd told the AFRO following a Ward 6 / SW Development and Planning Gathering, Nov. 18, at the Southwest Library. “Public housing helps those with no income or living on fixed incomes and those would be inextricably impacted by these cuts.”

According to Del. Norton, H.R.1, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, will hinder local government support of community improvement initiatives, schools, hospitals, and job creation – especially for vulnerable populations like returning citizens.

“House Republicans are rushing through a massive tax cut bill that will leave District residents with the highest tax increase in the nation,” Norton said in a prepared statement. “The House bill is a giveaway to corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent at the expense of hardworking, everyday Americans. It is particularly insulting to D.C. residents, who already pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States. However, the District has many allies in this fight. If enough of us, like our coalition at tomorrow’s press conference, work together, we can get a better product.”

Additionally, according to Norton, homeowners in the District whose homes are valued between $50,000 and $200,000 could face a tax increase of 28 percent under H.R.1.

“This increase could be catastrophic to homeowners who are already struggling to keep their homes. If it is approved, we would be paying the highest increase in the nation,” Ward 8 resident Virgil Tatum told the AFRO. “My home is small, comfortable and paid off, but on a fixed-income, the taxes could cause me to lose it. Unfortunately, I believe Trump is punishing Bowser for not bowing to his immigration mandates; and the residents are paying the price.”

Norton and Bowser were joined by Alexandria, Va. Mayor Allison Silverberg (D) during their press conference. They said that in addition to their concerns that District residents could potentially pay the highest per capita federal tax in the nation under H.R.1, they would do so without representation in Congress.

“I will continue to advocate against any tax reform bill in the Senate that will raise taxes on the middle class, eliminate health care for millions of Americans, or make it harder for cities and counties to meet the basic needs of their residents. Congress must go back to the drawing board, listen to leaders and Americans from around the country, and work across the aisle to develop a bill that will actually make it easier for hardworking families to prosper, not further burden them and their communities,” Norton said.

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