So, my conservative friends, what is the ideological difference between a tax subsidy for the wealthy and a financial subsidy for the poor?
We hear concerns from some conservatives about corporate welfare where the tax code benefits select corporate interests, but not so much about tax code welfare for the wealthy.
My question arises from a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Admittedly the Center is a left-leaning think tank, but its work is cited by Bank of America in ads touting the bank’s activities to finance affordable housing.
“The federal government spends nearly $200 billion per year on housing assistance programs, but the vast majority of it is allocated, via tax deductions, to households earning more than $100,000 per year,” reads the ad in Axios.com. A footnote points to the Center’s article entitled “Chart Book: Federal Housing Spending Is Poorly Matched to Need.”
The article counted as subsidies mortgage interest and property tax deductions, capital gains exclusions, Low Income Housing Tax Credits and other rental assistance programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and public housing. Based on 2015 data, it said 60% of these subsidies went to higher income households, “even though lower-income families are far more likely to struggle to afford housing.”
While tax subsidies for higher income households are somewhat restrained under the new tax laws, overall these subsidies are not capped. Rental subsidies, however, for lower income households are capped. Consequently, only about one in four low-income households eligible for assistance gets it while waiting lists grow across the country.
Demographic trends predict growing imbalance. Over a 10-year period, renter households grew by nearly 9 million, while homeowner households remained flat.
So, does all this have anything to do with Mississippi?
The latest data show over 62,000 low-income Mississippi households get federal rental subsidies. That breaks out to 25,200 with Housing Choice Vouchers, 16,600 with Section 8 project-based assistance, 9,800 in public housing, 8,800 with USDA assistance, and 1,300 with elderly and disabled assistance.
The data further show pent-up demand for such assistance with an additional 96,000 low income renter households paying over 50% of income for housing.
That demand will surge as Mississippi’s elderly population surges (see last week’s column), especially from seniors on fixed retirement incomes.
While most of the financing for rental assistance is federal, there are policy options at the state level. For example, the Mississippi Home Corporation (MHC) controls the point system used to score applications for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
While providing extra points for elderly developments in the past, the point system currently is not favorable to senior-only developments. Extra points generally go to projects serving larger families. However, the growth trend for our elderly population indicates more senior-only projects are needed.
Ironically, the MHC Facebook page touts the opening of Preservation Crossing, a seniors-only housing development in Hattiesburg it helped finance. The project revamped the historic Hattiesburg High School into 74 units for seniors ages 55 and older who earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. (In this case, the project’s historic preservation feature boosted its points.)
So, where do Mississippi conservatives stand regarding tax subsidies for the wealthy and financial subsidies for the poor? For one, both, or neither? More and more seniors want to know.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info