Oklahoma’s affordable housing tax credit is officially on the chopping block.
A bill to lower its annual cap from $4 million to $2 million narrowly passed the Senate on Tuesday and awaits the governor’s signature.
House Bill 2760's Senate sponsor, Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City), said the state has one of the nation’s better affordable housing stocks.
"The affordable housing shortage is less prominent in Oklahoma than almost all other states. There are six other states that have what would be considered more affordable housing per capita than Oklahoma," Bice said.
The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) also cited that statistic. Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Housing Officer Greg Shinn said that comparison skirts the real issue.
"When you’re living in a state where the minimum wage is still at $7.25 an hour, you have to work 85 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Oklahoma. I don’t think that’s affordable," Shinn said.
Two in five Oklahoma renters are considered overburdened, meaning more than 30% of their income goes toward rent. According to the latest assessment, Oklahoma needs 19,000 more affordable housing units for low-income families.
Sen. Mary Boren (D-Norman) pointed out thousands of Oklahomans are now out of work because of the economic affects of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The demand for affordable housing is going to increase, and to take away any incentive right now for our partners to provide that housing is not good timing," Boren said.
Shinn said cutting the tax credits will also mean hundreds of lost jobs as building slows.
"When you take a look at what happens in the economy with affordable housing production, the $2 million of state credits is just the tip of the iceberg," Shinn said.
A recent study done with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce pegs the tax credit’s economic impact in the state at $839 million.