Federal Budget Helps Affordable Housing
Advocates for and developers of affordable housing lamented tax cuts passed late last year. A decrease in the corporate tax rate made the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) less valuable, and analysts estimated that the loss in value would lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units that otherwise would have been built.
However, the recently passed federal budget, which went into effect in March, will mitigate some of the negative effects of the tax cuts. Under the new budget, the part of the LIHTC program in which state and local housing agencies offer LIHTCs to developers will expand by 12.5 percent for four years. Analysts expect this to add up to 29,000 more units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. Provisions in the new budget also allow affordable housing properties to take advantage of income averaging when setting their rents. This allows owners of properties subsidized by LIHTCs to set rents that are affordable to a broader range of residents, so long as the overall income of the property's tenants averages 60 percent of the area median income.
While these provisions may not fully compensate for the effect of the tax cuts, affordable housing is in a much better place than it was several months ago when there were concerns that the LIHTC program could be eliminated entirely.
Seattle Convention Center Tax Expands to More Properties
Since its inception in 1982, King County's convention center tax has applied only to hotels and motels with 60 or more units. As a result, those lodging facilities have had to collect the 7 percent tax if they were in Seattle or a tax of 2.8 percent if they were located in any other part of King County. However, the proliferation of smaller lodging facilities and short-term rentals has resulted in a situation where many lodging facilities are not subject to the tax and therefore have a competitive advantage over larger facilities.
Washington state lawmakers recently fixed this situation when they passed legislation requiring lodging facilities and short-term rentals with fewer than 60 units to collect the convention center tax starting Oct. 1, 2018. Seattle convention center representatives hope the new law also will help fund a $1.6 billion project that is currently underway and that will double the size of the Washington State Convention Center, which is presently the smallest convention center of any major West Coast city.
Third-Party Appraisal Requirement Changed by Federal Regulators
The Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) recently agreed on new rules that increase the threshold at which an independent third-party appraisal is required for a property before a bank can lend against it. Consumer advocates have pointed to inflated property values and unreliable appraisals as one of the causes of the real estate troubles that sparked the Great Recession. In response, federal regulators created a rule that required an independent third-party appraisal for any piece of commercial real estate worth more than $250,000 if that property was to serve as collateral for a loan. Now, federal regulators have increased the threshold to $500,000, which will allow more commercial real estate transactions to be completed without an independent appraisal.
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