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Public comment hearing held on eliminating low-income housing tax credits

A public comment meeting was held after the Missouri Housing Development Commission voted to eliminate the state’s contribution to low-income housing tax credits. The MHDC vote eliminating the credits was an amendment in the 2018 Qualified Allocation Plan which developers use to apply for low-income housing projects.

The public comment in Friday’s hearing was not favorable to the vote. Many people came forward to talk about how eliminating the credits would affect them personally.

“You can’t pay the rent, you’re going to end up in the street,” Pam Hildebrand, one of those people, said.

Hildebrand said she makes about $1,100 a month with nearly $800 going to rent and utilities. She is elderly, disabled and in poor health. After doctor’s visits and prescriptions, Hildebrand said she doesn’t have much leftover.

“I don’t have cable or television because I can’t afford it,” she said. “I did everything right. I paid into Social Security. But I got hit by someone and had to declare bankruptcy after $750,000 of medical bills. I’m a human being. Where is the compassion?”

By eliminating the state’s contributions to the tax credits, there will be less money for developers to build low-income housing.

“Without the tax credits, I’m not sure there’d be a motivation for somebody to be involved with this,” said Michael Bodine, an electrician, who frequently works on projects involved in low-income housing projects.

Critics of the program claim it doesn’t work. Gov. Eric Greitens said the program only uses 42 – 55 cents per dollar to actually build, the rest going to the developers’ profits.

“Don’t take housing away from the people who need it because the government hasn’t done a good enough job regulating the profit that comes from it,” former lawmaker Chris Kelly said. “Don’t quit building housing for people because someone in the private sector is being successful.”

Supports of the tax credit program say it is a much better alternative to previous government sponsored housing.

“It makes sure that the houses are built well, that they’re energy efficient, use green building methods and they’re placed in appropriate locations in communities so you don’t concentrate people in poverty,” Phil Steinhaus, Columbia Housing Authority CEO, said.

Wait lists for affordable housing can stretch years.

“If the credits aren’t there, less affordable housing will be built,” Steinhaus said. “There’s already a high demand for it and long waiting lists to get into those properties. So people will be waiting even longer.”

Friday’s hearing was only for public comments so no action was taken. The MHDC’s next meeting is Dec. 19 when they will take a vote to finalize next year’s QAP.

Steinhaus said they will also be presented with Friday’s comments.

“They could be swayed (to reverse their vote eliminating the credits) by how many people see value in credits,” Steinhaus said.

Steinhaus said there is also the potential for a legal battle. The state legislature appropriates the money for the MHDC to allocate across the state. There could be a potential legal challenge to determine if the MHDC has the authority to not allocate the money the state tasked them to distribute.

Until then, Steinhaus said the Columbia Housing Authority and other similar groups will continue to move forward on their projects and make them work despite the loss of state credits.

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