For the first time in history, California has awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to a tribal project. This breakthrough for Indian Country is coming from a pilot Native American set-aside. The Bishop Paiute Tribe in Bishop, CA, was awarded $884,507 in federal tax credits and $3,446,131 in California state tax credits for a 30-unit affordable housing project that will include a new community building. We are doubly proud of this since the Bishop Paiute Tribe is our client. We prepared the tax credit application and structured the project so that it could win an award of credits.
This is the culmination of nearly 15 years of advocating for change. Travois and our partners persuaded the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) to change its scoring process to give tribes a realistic chance of gaining the precious tax credits. We worked directly with Bill Pavao, the director of TCAC, as well as with Bill Lockyer, the treasurer of the State of California, to allow them to see how unfair the old scoring system was, and how tribes simply could not win in the competition for credits. We pointed out for years that the TCAC allocation plan had an unfair and disparate impact on tribal applicants. We know, when working with policy makers, that you can’t just present problems, you must come to the table with solutions. So we offered alternatives so that tribes would at least be competing on a level playing field.
Many tribal groups entered the discussions last year and that helped sway the state in favor of the changes they ultimately enacted — but the changes are only temporary. We need to prove that tribes can take advantage of this new opportunity, and in doing so, the state will be more likely to make the changes permanent. So, get in touch with us if you share our goal of bringing more LIHTC capital to Indian Country in California. If your tribe wants to develop housing in the state, let’s collaborate on a strategy to make that happen. Tribes in California are already stepping up to the plate to build a track record of success.
Next up is the Washoe Housing Authority. We are currently working with them to submit an application in the next round in California. We have high hopes that they will be the second tribe to be awarded credits. This will help us show that it is time to move beyond a pilot program and into a perpetual set-aside that serves tribes across this crucial new market.