Qualified Census Tracts and Difficult Development Areas

 
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
[Docket No. FR-4401-N-03]

Statutorily Mandated Designation of Difficult Development Areas, and Supplemental Designation of Qualified Census Tracts, for Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, HUD.

ACTION: Notice.

SUMMARY: This document designates "Difficult Development Areas" and supplemental "Qualified Census Tracts" for purposes of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit ("LIHTC") under section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 ("the Code"). The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") makes new Difficult Development Area designations annually and makes supplemental designations of Qualified Census Tracts at this time because of changes in metropolitan area definitions.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions on how areas are designated and on geographic definitions: Kurt G. Usowski, Economist, Division of Economic Development and Public Finance, Office of Policy Development and Research, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20410, telephone (202) 708-0426, e-mail Kurt_G._Usowski@hud.gov. For specific legal questions pertaining to section 42 and this notice: Harold J. Gross, Senior Tax Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20410, telephone (202) 708-3260, e-mail JERRY_GROSS@hud.gov. For questions about the "HUBZones" program: Michael P. McHale, Assistant Administrator for Procurement Policy, Office of Government Contracting, Suite 8800, Small Business Administration, 409 Third Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20416, telephone (202) 205-6731, fax (202) 205-7324, e-mail michael.mchale@sba.gov. A text telephone is available for persons with hearing or speech impairments at (202) 708-9300. (These are not toll-free telephone numbers.) Additional copies of this notice are available through HUD User at (800) 245-2691 for a small fee to cover duplication and mailing costs.

COPIES AVAILABLE ELECTRONICALLY: This notice is available electronically on the Internet (World Wide Web) at https://www.huduser.gov/ under the heading "Data Available from HUD User."

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This Document

The designations of Difficult Development Areas in this document are based on FY 1999 Fair Market Rents ("FMRs"), FY 1999 income limits and 1990 census population counts as explained below. The designations of Qualified Census Tracts in newly designated metropolitan areas and the nonmetropolitan parts of States affected by the most recent metropolitan area designation are made necessary by the recently enacted "HUBZones" provisions of the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997, which incorporate section 42 Qualified Census Tracts by reference. These designations are made based on 1990 Census data. The corrected designations of Qualified Census Tracts published May 1, 1995, at 60 FR 21246, as amended by the supplemental designations of Qualified Census tracts published June 25, 1998, at 63 FR 34748, and December 9, 1998 at 63 FR 68115, are not affected by this Notice.

Background

The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service thereof are authorized to interpret and enforce the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the "Code"), including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit ("LIHTC") found at section 42 of the Code (26 U.S.C. 42) as amended. The Secretary of HUD is required to designate Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts by section 42(d)(5)(C) of the Code.

In order to assist in understanding HUD's mandated designation of Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts for use in administering section 42 of the Code, a summary of section 42 is provided. The following summary does not purport to bind the Treasury or the IRS in any way, nor does it purport to bind HUD, as HUD has no authority to interpret or administer the Code, except in those instances where it has a specific delegation.

Summary of Low Income Housing Tax Credit

The LIHTC is a tax incentive intended to increase the availability of low income housing. Section 42 provides an income tax credit to owners of newly constructed or substantially rehabilitated low-income rental housing projects. The dollar amount of the LIHTC available for allocation by each state (the "credit ceiling") is limited by population. Each state is allocated credit based on $1.25 per resident. States may carry forward unused or returned credit derived from the credit ceiling for one year; if not used by then, credit goes into a national pool to be allocated to states as additional credit. State and local housing agencies allocate the state's credit ceiling among low-income housing buildings whose owners have applied for the credit. Besides Section 42 credits derived from the credit ceiling, States may also provide Section 42 credits to owners of buildings based upon the percentage of certain building costs financed by tax-exempt bond proceeds. Credits provided under the tax-exempt bond "volume cap" do not reduce the credit available from the credit ceiling.

The credit allocated to a building is based on the cost of units placed in service as low-income units under certain minimum occupancy and maximum rent criteria. In general, a building must meet one of two thresholds to be eligible for the LIHTC: either 20 percent of units must be rent-restricted and occupied by tenants with incomes no higher than 50 percent of the Area Median Gross Income ("AMGI"), or 40 percent of units must be rent restricted and occupied by tenants with incomes no higher than 60 percent of AMGI. The term "rent-restricted" means that gross rent, including an allowance for utilities, cannot exceed 30 percent of the tenant's imputed income limitation (i.e., 50 percent or 60 percent of AMGI). The rent and occupancy thresholds remain in effect for at least 15 years, and building owners are required to enter into agreements to maintain the low income character of the building for at least an additional 15 years.

The LIHTC reduces income tax liability dollar for dollar. It is taken annually for a term of ten years and is intended to yield a present value of either (1) 70 percent of the "qualified basis" for new construction or substantial rehabilitation expenditures that are not federally subsidized (i.e., financed with tax-exempt bonds or below-market federal loans), or (2) 30 percent of the qualified basis for the cost of acquiring certain existing projects or projects that are federally subsidized. The actual credit rates are adjusted monthly for projects placed in service after 1987 under procedures specified in section 42. Individuals can use the credit up to a deduction equivalent of $25,000. This equals $9,900 at the 39.6 percent maximum marginal tax rate. Individuals cannot use the credit against the alternative minimum tax. Corporations, other than S or personal service corporations, can use the credit against ordinary income tax. They cannot use the credit against the alternative minimum tax. These corporations can also deduct the losses from the project.

The qualified basis represents the product of the "applicable fraction" of the building and the "eligible basis" of the building. The applicable fraction is based on the number of low income units in the building as a percentage of the total number of units, or based on the floor space of low income units as a percentage of the total floor space of residential units in the building. The eligible basis is the adjusted basis attributable to acquisition, rehabilitation, or new construction costs (depending on the type of LIHTC involved). These costs include amounts chargeable to capital account incurred prior to the end of the first taxable year in which the qualified low income building is placed in service or, at the election of the taxpayer, the end of the succeeding taxable year. In the case of buildings located in designated Qualified Census Tracts or designated Difficult Development Areas, eligible basis can be increased up to 130 percent of what it would otherwise be. This means that the available credit also can be increased by up to 30 percent. For example, if the 70 percent credit is available, it effectively could be increased up to 91 percent.

Under section 42(d)(5)(C) of the Code, a Qualified Census Tract is any census tract (or equivalent geographic area defined by the Bureau of the Census) in which at least 50 percent of households have an income less than 60 percent of the AMGI. There is a limit on the number of Qualified Census Tracts in any Metropolitan Statistical Area ("MSA") or Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area ("PMSA") that may be designated to receive an increase in eligible basis: all of the designated census tracts within a given MSA/PMSA may not together contain more than 20 percent of the total population of the MSA/PMSA. For purposes of HUD designations of Qualified Census Tracts, all non-metropolitan areas in a state are treated as if they constituted a single metropolitan area.

Section 42 of the Code defines a Difficult Development Area as any area designated by the Secretary of HUD as an area that has high construction, land, and utility costs relative to the AMGI. Again, limits apply. All designated Difficult Development Areas in MSAs/PMSAs may not contain more than 20 percent of the aggregate population of all MSAs/PMSAs, and all designated areas not in metropolitan areas may not contain more than 20 percent of the aggregate population of all non-metropolitan counties.

The following changes in MSA/PMSA definitions were made after HUD's last designation of Qualified Census Tracts.

New MSA (MSA Number) Component Counties
Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA (580) Lee County, AL
Corvallis, OR MSA (1890) Benton County, OR

Since these counties are no longer part of the nonmetropolitan areas of their respective States, the 20 percent population cap (see below) is applied to the populations of these counties individually. This results in the loss of 2 qualified census tracts in Lee County, AL (402.00 and 407.00), and 1 qualified census tract in Benton County, OR (11.00).

Explanation of HUD Designation Methodology

A. Qualified Census Tracts

In developing this revised list of LIHTC Qualified Census Tracts, HUD used 1990 Census data and the MSA/PMSA definitions established by the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") in OMB Bulletin No. 99-04 on June 30, 1999. Beginning with the 1990 census, tract-level data are available for the entire country. Generally, in metropolitan areas these geographic divisions are called census tracts while in most non-metropolitan areas the equivalent nomenclature is Block Numbering Area ("BNA"). BNAs are treated as census tracts for the purposes of this Notice.

The LIHTC Qualified Census Tracts were determined as follows:

1. A census tract must have 50% of its households with incomes below 60% of the AMGI to be eligible. HUD has defined 60% of AMGI as 120% of HUD's Very Low Income Limits (VLILs), which are based on 50% of area median family income, adjusted for high cost and low income areas. The 1999 income estimates were then deflated to 1989 dollars, so they would match the 1990 Census income data.

2. For each census tract, the percentage of households below the 60% income standard was determined by (a) calculating the average household size of the census tract, (b) applying the income standard after adjusting it to match the average household size, and (c) calculating the number of households with incomes below the income standard.

3. Qualified Census Tracts are those in which 50% or more of the households are income eligible and the population of all census tracts that satisfy this criterion does not exceed 20% of the total population of the respective area.

4. In areas where more than 20% of the population qualifies, census tracts are ordered from the highest percentage of eligible households to the lowest. Starting with the highest percentage, census tracts are included until the 20% limit is exceeded. If a census tract is excluded because it raises the percentage above 20%, then subsequent census tracts are considered to determine if one or more census tract(s) with smaller population(s) could be included without exceeding the 20% limit.

B. Difficult Development Areas

In developing the list of Difficult Development Areas, HUD compared incomes with housing costs. HUD used 1990 Census data and the MSA/PMSA definitions as published by the Office of Management and Budget in OMB Bulletin No. 99-04 on June 30, 1999, with the exceptions described in section C., below. The basis for these comparisons was the fiscal year ("FY") 1999 HUD income limits for Very Low Income households and Fair Market Rents ("FMRs") used for the section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Program. The procedure used in making these calculations follows:

1. For each MSA/PMSA and each non-metropolitan county, a ratio was calculated. This calculation used the FY 1999 two-bedroom FMR and the FY 1999 four-person VLIL. The numerator of the ratio was the area's FY 1999 FMR. The denominator of the ratio was the monthly LIHTC income-based rent limit calculated as 1/12 of 30 percent of 120 percent of the area's VLIL (where 120 percent of the VLIL was rounded to the nearest $50 and not allowed to exceed 80 percent of the AMGI in areas where the VLIL is adjusted upward from its 50 percent of AMGI base).

2. The ratios of the FMR to the LIHTC income-based rent limit were arrayed in descending order, separately, for MSAs/PMSAs and for non-metropolitan counties.

3. The Difficult Development Areas are those with the highest ratios cumulative to 20 percent of the 1990 population of all metropolitan areas and of all non-metropolitan counties.

C. Application of Population Caps to Difficult Development Area Determinations

In identifying Difficult Development Areas and Qualified Census Tracts, HUD applied various caps, or limitations, as noted above. The cumulative population of metropolitan Difficult Development Areas cannot exceed 20 percent of the cumulative population of all metropolitan areas and the cumulative population of nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Areas cannot exceed 20 percent of the cumulative population of all nonmetropolitan counties.

For Qualified Census Tracts, section 42(d)(5)(C)(ii)(II) of the Code specifies that the population of designated census tracts within a metropolitan area cannot exceed 20% of the population of that metropolitan area. Similarly, for census tracts/block numbering areas (BNAs) located outside metropolitan areas, the population of designated census tracts/BNAs cannot exceed 20% of the population of the non-metropolitan counties in a State or equivalent area.

In applying these caps, HUD established procedures to deal with how to treat small overruns of the caps. The remainder of this section explains the procedure. In general, HUD stops selecting areas when it is impossible to choose another area without exceeding the applicable cap. The only exceptions to this policy are when the next eligible excluded area contains either a large absolute population or a large percentage of the total population, or the next excluded area's ranking ratio as described above was identical (to four decimal places) to the last area selected, and its inclusion resulted in only a minor overrun of the cap. Thus for both the designated metropolitan and nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Areas there are minimal overruns of the caps. HUD believes the designation of these additional areas is consistent with the intent of the legislation. Some latitude is justifiable because it is impossible to determine whether the 20 percent cap has been exceeded, as long as the apparent excess is small, due to measurement error. Despite the care and effort involved in a decennial census, it is recognized by the Census Bureau, and all users of the data, that the population counts for a given area and for the entire country are not precise. The extent of the measurement error is unknown. Thus, there can be errors in both the numerator and denominator of the ratio of populations used in applying a 20 percent cap. In circumstances where a strict application of a 20 percent cap results in an anomalous situation, recognition of the unavoidable imprecision in the census data justifies accepting small variances above the 20 percent limit.

D. Exceptions to OMB Definitions of MSAs/PMSAs and Other Geographic Matters

As stated in OMB Bulletin 99-04 defining metropolitan areas:

"OMB establishes and maintains the definitions of the [Metropolitan Areas] solely for statistical purposes ...OMB does not take into account or attempt to anticipate any nonstatistical uses that may be made of the definitions... We recognize that some legislation specifies the use of metropolitan areas for programmatic purposes, including allocating Federal funds." HUD makes exceptions to OMB definitions in calculating FMRs by deleting counties from metropolitan areas whose OMB definitions are determined by HUD to be larger than their housing market areas.

The following counties are assigned their own FMRs and VLILs and evaluated as if they were separate metropolitan areas for purposes of designating Difficult Development Areas.

Metropolitan Area and Counties Deleted

Chicago, IL: DeKalb, Grundy, and Kendall Counties.

Cincinnati-Hamilton, OH-KY-IN: Brown County, Ohio; Gallatin, Grant, and Pendleton Counties, Kentucky; and Ohio County, Indiana.

Dallas, TX: Henderson County.

Flagstaff, AZ-UT: Kane County, Utah. New Orleans, LA: St. James Parish.

Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV: Clarke, Culpeper, King George, and Warren Counties, Virginia; and Berkely and Jefferson Counties, West Virginia.

Affected MSAs/PMSAs are assigned the indicator "(part)" in the list of Metropolitan Difficult Development Areas. Any of the excluded counties designated as difficult development areas separately from their metropolitan areas are designated by the county name.

Finally, in the New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) OMB defines MSAs/PMSAs according to county subdivisions or Minor Civil Divisions ("MCDs") rather than county boundaries. Thus, when a New England county is designated as a Nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Area, only that part of the county (the group of MCDs) not included in any MSA/PMSA is the Nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Area. Affected counties are assigned the indicator "(part)" in the list of Nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Areas.

For the convenience of readers of this notice, the geographic definitions of designated Metropolitan Difficult Development Areas and the MCDs included in Nonmetropolitan Difficult Development Areas in the New England states are included in the list of Difficult Development Areas.

Future Designations

Difficult Development Areas are designated annually as updated income and FMR data become available. Qualified Census Tracts will not be redesignated until data from the 2000 census become available unless changes in MSA/PMSA definitions are made by OMB in the interim.

Effective Date

The list of Difficult Development Areas and the supplemental list of Qualified Census Tracts is effective for allocations of credit made after December 31, 1999. In the case of a building described in section 42(h)(4)(B) of the Code, the list is effective if the bonds are issued and the building is placed in service after December 31, 1999. The corrected designations of Qualified Census Tracts published May 1, 1995, at 60 FR 21246, as amended by the supplemental designations of Qualified Census tracts published June 25, 1998, at 63 FR 34748, and December 9, 1998 at 63 FR 68115, are not affected by this Notice.

Interpretive Examples for Effective Date

For the convenience of readers of this Notice, interpretive examples are provided below to illustrate the consequences of the effective date in areas that gain or lose Difficult Development Area status with respect to projects described in section 42(h)(4)(B) of the Code. The examples are equally applicable to Qualified Census Tract designations.

(Case A) Project "A" is located in a newly-designated 2000 Difficult Development Area. Bonds are issued for Project "A" on November 1, 1999, and Project "A" is placed in service March 1, 2000. Project "A" IS NOT eligible for the increase in basis otherwise accorded a project in this location because the bonds were issued BEFORE January 1, 2000.

(Case B) Project "B" is located in a newly-designated 2000 Difficult Development Area. Project "B" is placed in service November 15, 1999. The bonds which will support the permanent financing of Project "B" are issued January 15, 2000. Project "B" IS NOT eligible for the increase in basis otherwise accorded a project in this location because the project was placed in service BEFORE January 1, 2000.

(Case C) Project "C" is located in an area which is a Difficult Development Area in 1999, but IS NOT a Difficult Development Area in 2000. Bonds are issued for Project "C" on October 30, 1999, but Project "C" is not placed in service until March 30, 2000. Project "C" is eligible for the increase in basis available to projects located in 1999 Difficult Development Areas because the first of the two events necessary for triggering the effective date for buildings described in section 42(h)(4)(B) of the Code (the two events being bonds issued and buildings placed in service) took place on October 30, 1999, a time when project "C" was located in a Difficult Development Area..

Other Matters

Environmental Impact

In accordance with 40 CFR 1508.4 of the CEQ regulations and 24 CFR 50.19(c)(6) of the HUD regulations, the policies and procedures contained in this notice provide for the establishment of fiscal requirements or procedures which do not constitute a development decision that affects the physical condition of specific project areas or building sites and therefore, are categorically excluded from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, except for extraordinary circumstances, and no FONSI is required.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

In accordance with 5 U.S.C. section 605(b) (the Regulatory Flexibility Act), the undersigned hereby certifies that this notice does not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The notice involves the designation of "Difficult Development Areas" and "Qualified Census Tracts" as required by section 42 of the Code, as amended, for use by political subdivisions of the States in allocating the LIHTC. This notice places no new requirements on the States, their political subdivisions, or the applicants for the credit. This notice also details the technical methodology used in making such designations.

Executive Order 12612, Federalism

The General Counsel, as the Designated Official under section 6(a) of Executive Order 12612, Federalism, has determined that the policies contained in this notice will not have any substantial direct effects on States or their political subdivisions, or the relationship between the Federal government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. As a result, the notice is not subject to review under the order. The notice merely designates "Difficult Development Areas" as required under section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended, for the use by political subdivisions of the States in allocating the LIHTC. The notice also details the technical methodology used in making such designations.

Dated: September 9, 1999

Andrew M. Cuomo
Secretary


To determine the census tract number for a particular address, visit any of the following sites: the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), the Census Bureau, or the Small Business Administration (SBA).