State-Level Housing Action Heats Up Nationwide

With summer months ahead, states across the country are not slowing down when it comes to housing. Earlier this year, we highlighted California's legislature seeking to address housing affordability and shared an update.

However, California is not alone in housing-related legislative activity. Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Louisiana add to the geographic breadth of the housing crisis, while demonstrating existing challenges with ensuring that legislation truly benefits local communities.

Massachusetts Bonds Bill Targets Affordable Housing

Gov. Charlie Baker wrapped up May with good news for affordable housing in Massachusetts. On May 31, Baker signed into law a bill authorizing $1.8 billion in new housing funds. Entitled An Act Financing the Production and Preservation of Housing for Low and Moderate Income Residents, H. 4536 will do just that.

Key provisions of the legislation include state low-income housing tax credit, a housing development incentive program and accessory dwelling unit construction, among others. Receiving bipartisan support, housing advocates and community leaders consider the bill as an important step to addressing the housing crisis in the commonwealth.

State Tax Credit Legislation Becomes Wisconsin Law

Legislation in Wisconsin also takes steps toward financing affordable housing developments with the passage of Act 176. In signing Act 176, Gov. Scott Walker established a low-income housing tax credit program for the state of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) is charged with moving the program forward and currently manages federal housing tax credits.

WHEDA notes that Act 176 gives "preference to qualified developments located in municipalities with populations under 150,000" and speaks highly of the new legislation that has great potential to ease affordable housing challenges in Wisconsin.

Inclusionary Zoning Block Vetoed in Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has been busy engaging on housing issues further south. As announced last Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Edwards vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have removed the phrase inclusionary zoning from existing law, putting in place instead the language "voluntary economic incentive policies."

As the nation faces a housing crisis, removing tools that aid inclusionary growth threatens progress. Housing advocates and elected officials, such as New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, were pleased by the veto. While noting that inclusionary zoning is one of the tools used by communities across the country to increase affordable housing, Edwards also expressed the need for local governments to move forward with such strategies in the next year to demonstrate their utility.

State Legislature Rejects Nashville's Inclusionary Zoning

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee now faces a similar situation as the state legislature awaits his signature on a bill that would essentially "nullify Nashville's attempt" at inclusionary zoning. SB363 raises concerns of local control in the context of inclusionary zoning. APA's Policy Principles for the Nation's Housing Crisis note that inclusionary zoning may take many forms and states must continue to allow for these different forms to take shape.

These updates provide a snapshot of state-level actions across the country that wrestle with the nationwide affordable housing crisis. Check out APA's policy principles, mentioned above, that highlight good planning as essential to the solution and provides guidance on how to further identify and remove barriers to housing affordability.

Top image: Boston rowhouses. Pixabay photo.

About the Author
Catherine Hinshaw is state government affairs associate at APA.

June 5, 2018

By Catherine Hinshaw