What is Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program

couple signing papers for rental house

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, established in 1986 under the Tax Reform Act, is a crucial federal initiative designed to promote the development and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income households in the United States. Administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in conjunction with state housing agencies, the LIHTC program provides tax incentives to private developers and investors, encouraging them to invest in the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing projects.

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Recent LIHTC Program Updates
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Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) 101: Qualifying Households and Calculating Income/Assets
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How the LIHTC Program Works

The LIHTC program operates by allocating tax credits to state housing finance agencies (HFAs), which in turn distribute these credits to developers through a competitive process. The developers use these tax credits to raise equity capital from investors, thereby reducing the debt burden and making it financially viable to offer lower rents.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

  1. Allocation of Tax Credits: Each state receives a certain amount of tax credits based on its population. These credits are then allocated by the state’s HFA to affordable housing projects, prioritizing those that meet specific criteria and local needs.
  2. Project Application and Award: Developers submit applications to the state HFA, proposing projects that target low-income households. The applications are evaluated based on several factors, including the project’s location, the need for affordable housing in the area, and the developer’s experience.
  3. Raising Equity: Once awarded, the developers sell the tax credits to private investors, often forming partnerships. Investors receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their federal tax liability over a 10-year period, making the investment attractive.
  4. Construction and Compliance: The funds raised through the sale of tax credits are used to finance the construction or rehabilitation of the housing project. Developers must ensure that a specified portion of the units is rented to low-income tenants at restricted rents for at least 15 years, with an extended compliance period of up to 30 years.

Benefits of the LIHTC Program

The LIHTC program has several significant benefits:

  • Increased Affordable Housing: Since its inception, the program has been instrumental in creating and preserving over three million affordable housing units, providing millions of low-income families with stable and affordable housing options.
  • Economic Impact: The construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing generate substantial economic activity, including job creation and increased local and state tax revenues.
  • Community Revitalization: LIHTC projects often contribute to the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods, spurring additional private investment and improving the overall quality of life for residents.

Recent Developments and Future Outlook

Recent legislative proposals aim to enhance the effectiveness of the LIHTC program. For example, the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act seeks to increase the allocation of tax credits and introduce measures to address the geographic disparities in the distribution of credits. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on pairing LIHTC with other federal, state, and local funding sources to maximize the impact on affordable housing development.


The LIHTC program is a cornerstone of federal housing policy, fostering public-private partnerships to address the critical need for affordable housing. While challenges remain, ongoing efforts to refine and expand the program hold promise for ensuring that more low-income families have access to safe and affordable housing.

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