The Impact of Consistent Property Taxes on Affordable Housing

February 28, 2019

Unpredictable or inconsistent property tax assessments in Louisiana can complicate and even discourage vital affordable housing projects, says Michelle Whetten, vice president and Gulf Coast market leader for Enterprise Community Partners Inc., a national nonprofit that advocates for and develops affordable housing.

Whetten is based in New Orleans, where Enterprise has invested over $320 million in loans, grants and equity toward the production of more than 9,300 affordable homes in the years following Hurricane Katrina. She leads Enterprise’s work to create and support effective systems and tools for high-quality affordable housing production, attract private-sector capital and strengthen the affordable housing industry.

She and other housing experts will discuss how property tax assessments are impacting affordable housing projects in Louisiana during a panel at the inaugural Connections conference, hosted by the Louisiana Housing Corporation in April.

We took a moment recently to chat with Whetten ahead of her panel appearance at the conference. Read the highlights of the conversation below.

What will you be talking about at your conference panel?

I’ll be providing a national perspective on how different states approach low-income housing tax credit properties. I’ll also cover information on industry best practices and approaches for taxing low-income housing tax credit properties.

What impact do property tax assessments have on affordable housing?

Owners and operators of affordable housing have to carefully manage their operating revenue and operating costs. They use their rental income to pay their operating costs, and property taxes are one of the many operating costs of affordable housing. It’s important that they have predictable and consistent treatment of property taxes so they can manage and plan for what their tax payments will be over the life of those properties.

How problematic is a sudden change in how affordable housing is assessed?

It’s very serious. The lack of predictability in Louisiana has caused investors in those properties to require developers to set up reserve accounts at the beginning of the project and put money in those accounts in case they get an unexpected tax bill. The unfortunate consequence is it requires a lot of more subsidy to be put into a project to make those tax payments. And the ultimate result is less affordable housing for Louisianans that really need it.

When did your organization, Enterprise Community Partners, set up shop in the Gulf Coast?

We opened our office here shortly after Hurricane Katrina. I actually moved from our New York City office to do that — about 13 and a half years ago.

What is ECP’s role in affordable housing?

We’re a national organization, but we are working locally in this region to create a stronger system to support high-quality affordable housing. We’re not really just a developer; we work to attract private-sector capital, we work to promote effective policies and also provide training and grants and loans to nonprofits and other developers, as well as information about what’s working in the industry. That could be about green building, resilient housing, resident services, and property and asset management. Our work is broader than being a developer. We’re also an investor, a technical assistance provider and we do a lot of work on public policy.

The inaugural Connections conference by the Louisiana Housing Corporation, set for April 2-4 in downtown Baton Rouge, is designed to help elected leaders and housing professionals learn, share and develop affordable housing strategies to build stronger communities across the state. For more information about registration, sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, please visit

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