DC Housing Finance Agency Requires FOIA Before Releasing Public Information
by Larry Janezich
On May 29, Capitol Hill Corner contacted the DC Housing Finance Agency (HFA) to request certain specific information related to how Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) are awarded in DC. We asked for a list of Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded for the past five years, including the addresses and amount of LIHTC equity; the board minutes for the meeting which found the Hine and West End projects eligible for bond financing; and an explanation of how the DC Housing Finance Agency is funded.
Despite being informed that the independent agency is funded through fees charged to developers in order to process their applications for tax credits and award their financing, a brief review of their website indicated that the agency only receives a small amount of money from service fees (ranging in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars), and much more money from interest generated from their investments as well as a category simply called “Other” ($11 million).
The response we received was that the information regarding the first two requests is available but the HFA legal team said that a FOIA request would be necessary to release it. Regarding the question as to how the agency received its financing, CHC was offered a verbal explanation over the phone. When we pressed for a written explanation, we were told again that this would require a FOIA request.
CHC is in the process of filing the request. It is unclear if there is any precedent for a public, independent agency requiring a legal filing in order to obtain information about their sources of revenue. The HFA’s position seems to underscore what has been noted as a general lack of transparency in District government, particularly in those agencies which deal with development within the city.
DC Housing Finance Agency is the local agency that administers the federal program which awards lucrative tax credits to developers, who then trade these credits on Wall Street to obtain equity for construction. The program’s generous nature is intended to prod developers, big and small, to invest in renovating and constructing housing aimed at low-income Americans.